Saturday, June 11, 2016

Love and Friendship (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Love & Friendship

"Love & Friendship" by the offbeat director Whit Stillman is the lively film adaptation of Jane Austen's Lady Susan (1871). It is often difficult to make a film feel as rich as a work of literature, but thankfully this visual incarnation of the author's epistolary novel is catty, fun and irreverent.

All calm is suddenly upended when Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) descents upon the DeCourcy family, a glamorous raven in purple and black. Just how will she strike and what will she say? Susan Vernon is, after all, a widow.

 Beckinsale's Lady is flawless and frenetic, a true creature who actually licks her lips while speaking.

The film starts with music by Henry  Purcell, titled "The Funeral of Queen Mary." A similar version of the melody was done for "A Clockwork Orange." This is no accident. Lady Susan, like Alex in Stanley Kubrick's film is strong stuff, and she is indeed one of the few Austen antiheroes. Susan has the men eating from the palm of her hand.

Actor Xavier Samuel is perfect as a clueless Reginald DeCourcy. With melting eyes, he is both dense and docile. Playing James Martin, actor Tom Bennett almost reaches heights of Monty Python as a sycophantic and silly dancer. Rounding out the cast is Chloe Sevigny as Susan's hissy hussy Alicia who always says yes, and the iconic Stephen Fry as Alicia's husband.

The ladies rule here. All the men are drones and the film is all Susan. Far from lazy, she is half a silken serpent and half a piercing swan. Her hair is dazzlingly intricate with more swirls than a lord's handwriting.

If you are expecting a leisurely snooze, fear not. "Love & Friendship" has enough mouthy malice to put PBS on hold and her lethal loquaciousness will have you in stitches. Her sting of sarcasm is at odds with her sweet voice, making it all the more poisonous.

At film's end, take care or you will be knocked silly like most of the men in this deceptively light, subversive film.

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