This year is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death. She is one of my favourite authors and I recently had an opportunity to watch Love & Friendship, which is an adaptation of her juvenilia Lady Susan.
Since there has been a drought of recent Austen adaptations, I was pleased to hear that Love & Friendship was being made. It is based on a novella by Jane Austen, Lady Susan, which was written in the form of letters and I thought it would be interesting to see how the filmmakers translated it to screen.
I think that the creators of Love & Friendship definitely had fun with it and decided to try some techniques I haven’t seen in an adaptation of Austen before. Introducing the characters with text gave a theatrical feel to the whole production. The film is very tongue-in-cheek and witty but it felt like a sketch rather than an in-depth film.
I felt there was little real development of characters or dwelling on how different relationships were formed. It felt quite light, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Considering that Lady Susan was written in epistolary form I can understand why the film felt this way. The novella, Lady Susan, is very short and is more focused on witty dialogue and the machinations of Lady Susan than with description and detail.
Austen’s novella is very different from her six novels which have all been adapted many times. It is refreshing to see someone adapting Lady Susan to screen. I enjoyed the dialogue and characterisation. I hope Kate Beckinsale enjoyed being in another Austen adaptation, last seen as Emma in 1996! She portrayed the character of Lady Susan very well and I can see why a young man like Reginald would be infatuated with her.
Her portrayal of Lady Susan reminded me of Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair. There is something satisfying about watching these characters manipulate those around them in such intelligent and witty ways, it really makes me root for them to succeed!
I liked the costume design, particularly the fact that it was clearly set in the late 1700s, as the novella was written in 1794. The costumes and hairstyles were sufficiently different from other adaptations of Austen which were set and written in the early 1800s. For example, Pride and Prejudice was published in 1812, nearly 20 years later, and I am glad the costumes and hairstyles in Love & Friendship reflected that.
Overall, Love & Friendship was a fun film. I enjoyed visiting the Georgian period for a couple of hours and indulging my love for all things Austen. It is light and I enjoyed it as such but I generally prefer the depth of other Austen adaptations. However, I think Love & Friendship definitely deserves a watch, especially for Austen fans, and I would definitely watch it again.