Love & Friendship. Or Lady Susan. Either way, it’s a new Jane Austen movie.

Jane Austen published only published four full length novels during her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma.  Two more, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published a year after her death at the age of 41.

I’ve read all of them at least once, and seen multiple film and television adaptations of every one.  So you can imagine my excitement when I heard about the release of a new Jane Austen movie, based not on any of the six novels, but on an entirely new-to-me story!

Lady Susan is a short epistolary novel, sometimes even called a novella or novelette, written in Austen’s youth and published after her death.  The epistolary format, popular at the time, means that the entire story consists of letters written between the characters.  (Sense and Sensibility was originally drafted in this format as well.)  It’s not necessarily a style that lends itself well to adaptation into screenplay, as it generally lacks dialogue.

Love & Friendship poster.pngBut director Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, The Last Days of Disco) was up to the challenge.  His movie adaptation Love and Friendship, which borrows the name of another piece of Austen juvenilia, is pure Austen and pure entertainment.

Recently widowed, Lady Susan arrives, unannounced, at her brother-in-law’s estate to wait out colorful rumors about her dalliances circulating through polite society. While there, she becomes determined to secure a new husband for herself, and one for her reluctant debutante daughter, Frederica, too. As Lady Susan embarks on a controversial relationship with a married man, seduction, deception, broken hearts, and gossip all ensue.

Now, a word of caution: if your experience with Austen involves only things like Colin Firth jumping in a lake, you may find yourself a bit lost with this one.  Our main character, Lady Susan, cannot properly be called a heroine at all.  She is smart, scheming, and manipulative; recently widowed, she is young young to still be beautiful and charming, but old enough to have a sixteen-year-old daughter (whom she only views in terms of benefits to herself–in fact, that is her attitude towards people in general).

She is the center around which all the characters orbit, willingly or not.  Kate Beckinsale is absolutely wonderful in the role; in fact I really preferred this to her turn as the titular character in Emma twenty years ago.  Lady Susan is a bit like Emma, except that she ends without redeeming herself at all (despite what the credits say).

The rest of the cast and characters were also enjoyable, and they nearly all get some funny lines and scenes (several taken directly from the source material).  There are a few characters added, enhanced, or slightly altered compared to the novella, and I found them to be positive changes.

The film is only about an hour and a half long, and the pacing is very quick, with a lot of action happening off-screen.  In this way, I think it stays true to the novella, but you do have to work to keep up.  The beginning in particular is confusing, as we are introduced to a great number of characters in a short amount of time, and all the relationships between them are very important to setting the stage for the rest of the movie.

L&F also has a different feel from the polished BBC and movie adaptations of Austen’s other works.  The soundtrack is lovely, as is the scenery (it was shot in Ireland), but the cinematography and editing give it the feel of an “indie” movie.  It was clever at times, but a bit disconcerting at others.

I’m not sure why they felt the need to change the title, as it doesn’t really relate to the story and is confusing for Austen fans who may have read the actual Love and Freindship [sic], which is also epistolary.  Perhaps it just seems more “Austen” to those used to S&S and P&P.

In short, if you like Austen for the romance, you’ll probably be disappointed.  If you like Austen for the sharp wit and satire, you’ll be in heaven.  While Lady Susan is not Austen’s most satisfying work, I think Austen fans will generally find the film (and the novella on which it’s based) worthy of their time.

13 thoughts on “Love & Friendship. Or Lady Susan. Either way, it’s a new Jane Austen movie.

  1. GeekyNerdyGirl October 20, 2016 / 7:58 pm

    As an Austen fan, if you happen to find yourself in DC in the next few weeks, you would likely enjoy this exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library: A friend and I went last weekend and it was absolutely fascinating! As we said to each other a number of times, we like to think that fan fiction, character figurines, etc., are recent inventions, but really, they’ve always been around – just in different formats. Plus, they have “THE SHIRT” (as it is titled in the exhibit) from Firth’s infamous turn as Mr. Darcy 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mei-Mei October 22, 2016 / 1:02 am

      Haha “THE SHIRT.” Too funny.
      That sounds like a really great exhibit! Glad you enjoyed it.


  2. Marcia Strykowski October 21, 2016 / 5:03 pm

    I recently watched Love & Friendship and I have to say it was a bit tricky to follow and not all characters seemed believable, but I was very pleased with the ending. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei October 22, 2016 / 12:59 am

      Yes, I had a hard time keeping the characters’ connections straight at first. And there’s a lot that happens off-screen, so you really have to keep up. I thought the ending was very clever, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. NovEllaandBanannabelle October 23, 2016 / 8:41 am

    I saw this one recently too! When it first came out, I kept getting the title confused, because it was changed from the book– I’m not sure why that was either…

    There are some lovely dresses and costumes in the movie!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei October 23, 2016 / 12:33 pm

      Yeah, the visuals are beautiful! I just noticed it’s on Amazon Prime, so hopefully more people can see it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jeyran Main October 26, 2016 / 4:09 pm

    You have a very beautiful website. I look forward to coming back and reading more. Please stop by mine and if you like, follow back.


  5. Darth Amethystos November 3, 2016 / 1:56 pm

    We saw this at a cute little 1940s cinema that mostly shows indie flicks now. I’m not a particularly big Austen fan (and this was the first film based on her works that I’ve ever seen—GASP!) but I rather enjoyed this. So snarky and clever. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei November 3, 2016 / 9:56 pm

      That sounds like such a fun cinema! Glad you enjoyed it. Austen doesn’t get enough credit for her sharp wit 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. elizabethhunter94 November 12, 2016 / 11:36 pm

    Looking forward to watching this sometime!

    Liked by 1 person

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