Sunday, July 31, 2016

Movie Review: Love & Friendship (2016)

Hello, my lovelies!

(One would think that I'd been watching a lot of Emma Approved lately, but in fact I have not.)

I know it's been simply ages since I've posted, especially taking into consideration that I meant to post much earlier with a follow-up to all the hype about Lady Susan!  A thousand apologies.

I did get to see this movie when I said I would before.  I got to go with a couple of friends, a brother and sister who are kind of my Jane Austen proteges :P, and then again quite recently with my sister, once it came to what we like to call the "dollar theater". So, without further ado.

Because it's the thing I notice first about British drama, let's take a look at...

Recognizable Actors

First of all, of course, we have Kate Beckinsale, who has once played a Jane Austen heroine before, in the A&E version of Emma back in 1996.  She used to be my favorite portrayal until I watched the 2009 version.

In this movie she is also the lead: Lady Susan Vernon, the scheming, witty, irresistibly charming antagonist.  (Yes, the antagonist is the main character.)  And she plays it resplendently.

Then we have James Fleet, whom I know from Sense and Sensibility 1995 (John Dashwood), Little Dorrit (Uncle Fred--not Uncle Ned, who as we all know, is dead *snort*), and Death Comes to Pemberley (Mr. Bennet).  (Also heard him as Col. Pickering in a BBC broadcast of My Fair Lady, where Anthony Andrews played Henry Higgins... good times.)

His character is Sir Reginald de Courcy, father of Catherine Vernon and Mr. Reginald de Courcy.  (To avoid confusion I will hereafter call them Sir Reginald-- the older one-- and Mr. de Courcy-- the younger one.)

Stephen Fry had a brief but amusing appearance as Mr. Johnson, the husband of Lady Susan's friend and confidante. I know only as Jeeves from the 1980's BBC show Jeeves & Wooster--but that is enough.

Other Recurring Characters Not Mentioned Above

Relation to Lady Susan in italics. 

Miss Frederica Vernon

Frederica is the daughter of Lady Susan and her deceased husband, who was the older brother of Mr. Charles Vernon, and the person by which she got her title. Frederica is timid and subject to the whims of her mother, who likes to use her rather as a marionette doll.  However, even Lady Susan's bullying can't make her marry someone she can't even respect.

Mrs. Catherine Vernon (nee de Courcy)
{Pictured just below}
Wife of Charles Vernon, daughter of Sir Reginald and Lady De Courcy, and brother of Mr. De Courcy.  (Lady Susan's brother-in-law's wife.)  She mistrusts Lady Susan from the beginning, and is one of the few people in the movie who is never persuaded by her wiles.

Mr. Reginald de Courcy
{Pictured just above}
Brother of Catherine Vernon. (Lady Susan's brother-in-law's brother-in-law!) Handsome and clever, but not clever enough to avoid being an idiot and falling for Lady Susan's stories. So basically, uselessly clever... and a man. :P

Mr. Charles Vernon

Husband of Catherine Vernon. Kind and obliging, devoted to his wife, and willing to believe the best of people, but without being a complete idiot. (Lady Susan's brother-in-law-- brother of her deceased husband.)

Sir James Martin

A blithering doofus, and also the character who presents the most hilarity to the film.  "Oh! Churchill! That's how you say it. All together like that. I had heard 'church' and 'hill', but couldn't find either. All I could see was this big house!" Intent upon marrying Miss Frederica Vernon, although equally ready to be persuaded to marry her mother... (An acquaintance. No familial relation.)

Mrs. Alicia Johnson

An American refugee and Lady Susan's confidante and co-conspirator.  One of the few people to whom Lady Susan says anything she really means. (Side note: I had a little problem with her American accent. She didn't do too bad of a job-- it sounded like an American speaking Austenese-- except I don't feel like her American accent would be that distinct.  This is only the 1790's, after all-- many people in America probably moved there from England recently, and if indeed English accents are the same now as they were then-- which is by no means proven-- I don't think it would have faded quite that much yet.)

Lady de Courcy

Catherine Vernon's mother and prime confidante. Nice lady, but not much to say about her...

Closeness to the Book

Jane Austen's novella Lady Susan was written in the mid 1790s, around the same time she wrote her first drafts of P&P and S&S.  Since it's so short compared to her other works, it wasn't difficult for them to fit the whole story into the 93-minute film. However, I would have done it a bit differently myself.  The novella is written in epistolary style, and there are very few letters read in this movie.  Most of the letters are translated entirely into actual conversation, and while in some cases that worked out fine, I felt it changed the plot a little in others.  (For instance, in one scene, Frederica Vernon applies to Mr. de Courcy for help on a delicate matter, and I felt the letter was more accurate, but in the movie there was an actual conversation.)

As far as bringing the characters to life, I do think they did remarkably well.  In general it was very well-cast.

They did decide to stick in a bit of innuendo at the end which I did not appreciate and which was TOTALLY unnecessary.  Something was (very obviously) hinted at that Jane Austen would never have implied, and indeed, I'm not sure it was in keeping with Lady Susan, even if Lady Susan is horrid.  But that, I suppose, is just speculatory. (...that isn't a word? It SHOULD be a word.)

Also, they took a lot of liberties with Mrs. Johnson's character-- I do not recall a single thing being mentioned in the book that she was American.  I think they did that just so they could make fun of Americans... and suggest that they're more indecent, apparently, since she is the only character who shows a lot of cleavage in this movie. *cough*


On the whole, quite resplendent!  I did feel like we should have seen some higher waistlines and thinner skirts, as the Empire waist did start becoming popular in the mid-late 1790s. However, for once, thy DID have a right to the 18th century fashions-- unlike Fake P&P and Mansfield Park 2007 and such.

This one was my favorite...

Excuse the half-modern appearance of this photo, but here is a full view of the dress. Aren't the sleeves divine?!

An interesting thing I noticed about Lady Susan's dresses the second time around was that she seemed to have one particular outer coat-dress thing that she would wear with different dresses underneath to change the look.

The hairstyles, I thought, were a little bit over-the-top.  And looked so very... curling-ironed.  Although I suspect that Catherine Vernon's was not only a wig, but was probably supposed to be a wig, since they did do that a lot back then.


I think the music was written specifically for the soundtrack, but was mostly very average-sounding... Baroque?  Harpsichord-ish, you know.  Not my favorite when that's all there is to hear, but it was fine.

Filming Style

This, I added in because the filming style of the film is... well, very unique.  To introduce new characters, they would show them up on the screen with a short description and their names. Then at the end, it showed a clip of each person along with the actor's name.  I'm not quite sure I liked that; it seemed a little like a homemade movie.  On the other hand, it was sort of... quaint.

Another thing they did was show words on the screen as they were being read in letters. (Or perhaps it was just the one.) However, I think that added to the humor of the scene, and I rather liked it.


I recommend this film for anyone already acquainted with Jane Austen, who will know that you can't judge Jane Austen in general by this movie and that it is quite a different style.  However, JA's searing wit is still contained in the film and those of us who love a bit of snark will be delighted!  I would recommend watching it but not buying it right off. Rent it or, better yet, get it from the library.

Have any of you seen it? What did you think?


Naomi Sarah said...

I really liked the filming style - it was different, but in a good way, I think. :-)
Lady Susan's pink dress is SCRUMPTIOUSSS. (And I agree that her hair is a bit over the top sometimes; including her daughters' hair.)
(And - COUGH - I agree with you on the ending.) (AND I KNOW... I was reading the book the other day and suddenly realised; "Wait, there's no mention of Mrs Johnson being American. :-P)

jessica prescott said...

I think this movie looks really beautifully done, with the costumes and setting and all :-) I was SO confused when they said in the trailers and stuff that Mrs. Johnson was "American"--because, of course, that wasn't in the book at all. I don't know why they did that . . .

Hmmmmmmmmmm. I'm not sure if I mind the way they ended it, since we already KNOW Lady Susan was having an affair with Manwaring . . . but yeah, on the other hand, they didn't have to SAY it like that.

Miss Dashwood said...

AAAAAAACK I want to see this so badly!

I like that pink dress too. It looks Divine. And fluffy. :D I think the hairstyles do indeed look rather curling-ironed, and a bit too reminiscent of what one might see on the cover of a "historical romance" (heavy on the romance, light on the historicity accurate-ness. :P)

"Blithering doofus" made me laugh out loud, btw. :D I must scrounge around and find out when this is coming out on DVD so I may drop Helpful Hints to my library...

Miss Dashwood said...

September 6th will be the DVD release date in the US, for the idly curious like myself. ;)

Jessica said...

Thank you, Miss Dashwood! I was very curious as to when this movie will be on DVD. :-)

Would you rather hear the story...

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