LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP — Review by Susan Granger

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When Jane Austen was very young, she scribbled the novella “Lady Susan,” an archly observant satire of 18th century epistolary novels in the form of letters from the hyper-articulate heroine.

It’s perfectly suited for writer/director Whit Stillman (“Damsels in Distress,” “Last Days of Disco,” “Metropolitan,” “Barcelona”), who has demonstrated a fondness for the witty banter that harks back to the Restoration comedy of manners.

So it’s not surprising that Stillman uses clever captions to introduce his large “Dramatis Personae,” characters from the landed English gentry.

The plot revolves around the devious manipulations of beautiful, recently widowed Lady Susan Vernon (vivacious Kate Beckinsale) who, admittedly, has “no money and no husband.”

But she does have a trusted confidante/conspirator, Alicia Johnson (Chloe Sevigny), an American exile married to an imperious aristocrat (Stephen Fry), who threatens to ship her back to the wilds of Connecticut if she sides with “the most accomplished flirt in all England.”
Arriving at Churchill, the lavish country estate of her late husband’s brother Charles Vernon (Justin Edwards) and his wary wife, Catherine (Emma Greenwell), scheming Lady Susan immediately beguiles Catherine’s wealthy younger brother, Reginald DeCourcey (Xavier Samuel, channeling a young Hugh Grant). But before she can explore her own options, narcissistic Lady Susan must marry off her teenage daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark), who spurns the proposal of obliging Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett) simply because he’s a blithering idiot or, as they put it, “a bit of a rattle.”

Diverse emotional entanglements abound, despite strict societal rules regarding acceptable behavior. One husband is deliciously dismissed as “too old to be governable, too young to die,” a hapless wife skewered with “If she were going to be jealous, she never should have married such a charming man.”

And so it goes until the surprisingly bawdy conclusion. Filming in Ireland, cinematographer Richard Van Oosterhout, production designer Anna Rackard and costumer Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh make the most of the exquisitely elegant settings.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Love and Friendship” is a snappy, snarky 7, appealing primarily to women and indefatigable Austen fans.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.