Set in the 1790s, Love and Friendship centers on beautiful widow Lady Susan Vernon, who has come to the estate of her in-laws to wait out colorful rumors about her dalliances circulating through polite society. Whilst there, she decides to secure a husband for herself and her rather reluctant debutante daughter, Frederica.
My wife and I rented this film recently, having seen a promising trailer, and a reasonably good IMDb rating. Having now watched the film in its entirety, however, rarely have we ever been so utterly disappointed. I can understand why the IMDb popularity seems to be on a firmly downward trend.
The only positive aspects of this sloppily directed film were the costumes, locations and soundtrack - and OK performances by a couple of actors playing supporting characters, in particular James Fleet. Kate Beckinsale was unconvincing in this role, and Chloe Sevigny's curiously variable accent here was compounded by often mumbled diction. For much of the film, Xavier Samuel appeared to be offering little more than an admittedly pretty accurate imitation of the young Hugh Grant. The story line was disjointed and none of the characters ever really engaged the viewer, and at times the plot appeared to have gaps and non sequiturs - we each wondered if we'd dropped off for short periods, but this unfortunately was not the case.
In many ways this serves as an object lesson in why Jane Austen's meticulously constructed novels are such masterpieces of storytelling - each scene and dialogue fits perfectly like clockwork. We have not had the benefit of reading the novella in question,'Lady Susan', but this film leaves the impression of having been clumsily and carelessly assembled from a series of sketches. Excellent films can be very successfully adapted from little known short stories, for example with The Painted Veil (from Somerset Maugham). This is definitely NOT a good example, and we would advise readers, whether Austen fans or not, to look elsewhere.
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