Film Comment Highlight: Love & Friendship
May 13, 2016
In the May/June issue of Film Comment, Emma Myers reviews Whit Stillman's Love & Friendship.
There’s little to no mention of love in Love & Friendship, Whit Stillman’s acerbic adaptation of Jane Austen’s posthumously published novella Lady Susan. The book’s recently widowed heroine, played here with duplicitous glee by Kate Beckinsale, is the kind of modern 18th-century woman who wants it all: financial security and sex, that is. With her means of support rapidly dwindling, marriage is clearly the endgame for Lady Susan—as it is for all of Austen’s leading ladies—but the romantic emotion that’s supposed to go along with it proves to be little more than a social affect in this wry comedy of manners. The happiest of matrimonies the film presents is that between the director and his source material; Stillman, who established himself as a master of upper-caste repartee with films like Metropolitan (1990) and The Last Days of Disco (1998), feels more at home in Austen’s wit-driven world than ever before. Streaked with the director’s decidedly modern strain of cynicism, Love & Friendship might very well be the most faithful translation of Austen’s biting humor and highly practical feminism to date.
Published by the Film Society of Lincoln Center since 1962, Film Comment is a bimonthly magazine and daily website that features in-depth reviews, critical analysis, and feature coverage of mainstream, art-house, and avant-garde filmmaking from around the world.