Movie Review

Love and Friendship (Aka Schemers Gonna Scheme)

While most of my generation went to go see X-Men or Alice Through the Looking Glass (*shudder*), I went to a little unknown movie called Love and Friendship, based on a novella that Jane Austen wrote (called Lady Susan… I have no idea why it was changed).

The movie has been getting rave reviews from critics (99% on Rotten Tomatoes *Gasp!*) and I really needed a sure bet after a hard week.

As I left the theater I found myself in a predicament. I really enjoyed this movie, but I was also left a bit disappointed. Now I think I’ve figured out why my initial feelings were so divided (as were the audience reviews for this films).

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The major reason is due to expectations. I thought I was going to see another Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion adaptation, but L&F is a very different beast.

Many of Austen’s adaptations focus on the love story, while the comedy is a backdrop. But in L&F the sharp wit and devilish nature of the main character are the focus.

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The story belongs solely to Lady Susan, a widow who is trying to find husbands for herself and her shy and frightened (mainly of her mother) daughter, Frederica. There are three suitors in the mix, but the story doesn’t really care for you to know them. Their purpose is just to highlight Lady Susan and her scheming ways.

One of the gentleman, Lady Susan’s favorite and a married man, only has two minutes of screen time and no dialogue!

Once I was able to shake these unfair expectations I realized I liked the movie more. Austen is a master at wit, and I think L&F does an excellent job of showing off her talents.  

A major complaint I’m hearing about the movie is that it’s way too wordy. While I understand, I wasn’t bothered by the heavy dialogue. Lady Susan is not a good person and it is through her unfazed disposition and her words that she is able to get out of many situations unscathed. She literally talks in circles around people.

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Now if the fast paced dialogue of Gilmore Girls makes you dizzy, then you might want to skip this movie. Gilmore Girls has nothing on this movie. Though I am thankful that the show prepared me for this movie.

The dialogue issues, however, segway to my other nitpick. I think this movie could have benefited from a couple extra scenes, especially in the second half when the audience is going from place, to place, to place, really quickly. Some major plot points happen off screen, which is fine since I understand the romances weren’t the main concern of the director, but it happened too often.

In the first half of the movie, the comedic characters helped offset Lady Susan running around everyone. I think the second half just needed either more of those moment or scenes that did more showing than telling.

But all concerns and nitpicks aside, I effin’ love Kate Beckinsale in this. Along with Chloe Sevigny, Lady Susan’s close American friend Alicia Johnson, I could watch the both of them scheme for hours. I just wanted more of the two of them and their quest to screw over anybody who gets in their way.

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Overall I thought this was a great movie, with an amazing cast, beautiful production and costumes, and it’s just plain funny.

A word of warning: This movie isn’t going to be for everyone and it’s understandable if the heavy dialogue is just too much. I think now that I know what to expect I’ll be able to enjoy the movie more when I watch L&F a second time (because I will be watching it again!).
Score: B+

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