'Love & Friendship' review: Jane Austen's hilariously barbed, witty comedy

'Love & Friendship' review: Jane Austen's hilariously barbed, witty comedy

 "Love & Friendship" opens in theaters May 27. (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios/Lionsgate, used with permission.)

"Love & Friendship" opens in theaters May 27. (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios/Lionsgate, used with permission.)

Kate Beckinsale is absolutely exquisite in the sharply comedic “Love & Friendship” (opening in theaters nationwide May 27). Although this may not be among Jane Austen’s best known works, this adaptation is arguably the strongest translation of Austen to the cinema yet.

In short: In the last 18th century, the widowed Lady Susan Vernon (Becksinsale) schemes to find an appropriate husband for her young daughter – all the while finding one for herself as well. Morfydd Clark, Xavier Samuel and Chloë Sevigny also star. (Watch the trailer)

Simply put, the devious and manipulative Lady Susan is one of the best film characters of 2016. She is not outright evil or even bad – she is just too purely self-absorbed and cunning not to love. Her goal is simple: find a husband for her daughter and herself … but not necessarily in that order. Lady Susan is a flirtatious and charming anti-hero as they come. She is a soley self-serving character whose chief and primary concern is her own standing - no matter how magnanimous her actions may seem. And like all great anti-heroes – the audience may be rooting for every other character, but it’s impossible not to wonder how Lady Susan will wiggle her way out of the next situation.

“Love” retains Austen’s subversive and acerbic wit – none of her characters are spared. Writer-director Whit Stillman has wonderfully adapted a dramatic film about romance (more for convenience than true love) that is first and foremost a hilariouscomedy. Although just about character has some aristocratic heritage, this is a cast of fools, manipulators or just amenable (if simple) lords and ladies. Austen cannot hide her contempt at the silliness she observes and notes within the well-to-do.

Final verdict: Beckinsale shines in one of the very best - and certainly the most hilarious - adaptations of a Jane Austen work to date. It maintains a regal air in tone with a clever comedic edge.

Score: 4/5

"Love & Friendship" opens in theaters nationwide May 27. This comedic drama is rated PG for some thematic elements and has a running time of 92 minutes.


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