Any writer who has attempted to publish a novel will tell you that for every novel that has at least a completed draft, there are several novels that did not come to fruition.
Jane Austen was no exception.
One of her unfinished pieces was Lady Susan, a story about a widow who uses subversive and less than scrupulous methods to get what she wants.
This weekend, Love & Friendship premiered. Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) is a widow with a teenage daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark). Her status as a widow without fortune means that she is dependent on relations and friends for income and a home. Known as a flirt without scruples or morals, her ability to insult with a smile is renowned.
Lady Susan’s plan is to marry Frederica to the wealthy but dumb Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett). As Edmund Bertram noted in Mansfield Park about his future brother-in-law, James Rushworth, a character similar to Sir Martin, “If this man had not twelve thousand a year, he would be a very stupid fellow.”
The film starts with Susan, Frederica and Susan’s companion, Mrs. Cross (Kelly Campbell) forced out of the home of Susan’s married lover, Lord Manwaring (Lochlann O’Mearain). They end up living with Susan’s in-laws, Charles and Catherine Vernon (Justin Edwards and Emma Greenwell). A frequent visitor is Catherine’s handsome and eligible brother, Reginald DeCourcey (Xavier Samuel).
The only person who gets along with Susan is her best friend and sometimes stooge, American Alicia Johnson (Chloe Sevigny). Alicia’s husband, Mr. Johnson (Stephen Fry) forbids his wife to see Susan and continually threatens to send his wife back across the Atlantic if she does not end the friendship and cease all communication.
Will Susan get her way or will she, like all unlikable characters who are less than honest receive a proper comeuppance?
As anyone who knows me can tell you, I have been a Jane Austen fan for a few years now. So of course, this movie was on my must see list.
If anyone ever says that Jane Austen is stuffy and boring, immediately recommend this film. Jane Austen is wickedly funny, as the main character Beckinsale (previously known to Austen fans as the title role in the 1996 Emma) plays a woman who is by definition is unlikable. Her insults are cloaked in propriety and her plans in regards to her daughter, her current lover and her future lover are nothing short of cold and devious.
I absolutely recommend this film, especially for my fellow Jane Austen fans.
Love & Friendship is presently playing in theaters.