Oh, dear. I dare say that I may incite discord over my review of Love & Friendship, which currently has a rather high 98% Tomato Meter, with a 95% audience likeability rating. However, I cannot give it a 5, 4, 2, or 1, but have settled upon 3 Kernels, having spilled many more on the theater floor – no I really did. Popcorn bags can be so clumsy at times. After I stepped over my mess and left the dark abode at the end, I felt neither enthralled nor disgusted but rather neutral.
Like the other women in the audience, with sparsely a male to be seen anywhere, I probably had very high expectations of seeing a new Austen film. Perhaps I expected romance, but alas there was none compared to other Austen adaptations. I did find agreeable-looking men in cravats and fine clothing, beautiful English manor houses, and ladies dressed in not-so-Regency-type clothing. Costumes appeared to be more of the late eighteenth-century variety with no high waistlines such as 1790’s.
However, it was not the costumes or casting that I found bothersome, it was a rather chatty Lady Susan. By the end of the movie, you are quite thankful to see her in the background, rather than foreground, with her mouth shut. Yes, at times, her conversational style, tone, and wit may bring a smile, but her character is difficult to engage. Through the majority of the story you find her motives questionable, her narcissistic self-center character irritating, and her cold regard for her daughter bothersome. She lives up to her reputation of being a widow and penniless flirt with a daughter of marketable age to wed. With no home to call her own, she stays with friends and relatives until she has overstayed her welcome, at times leaving behind discord in her wake.
There are a few laughable moments, which are provided by a rather dimwitted suitor, Sir James Martin, for her daughter. It’s far from “howling funny” as some critics have raved. Only once did the audience laugh out loud over Sir Martin mistaking that the good Lord gave us twelve commandments instead of ten. The introduction of characters is a bit unique and endearing, showing their names with a short quip underneath them regarding their status in this tale of Love & Friendship. Nevertheless, even with the slight charm, I thought the story dull, dry, and uninspiring. I doubt Jane Austen is to blame. Of course, this could be one of her lesser achievements turned into a twenty-first-century adaptation that isn’t the most memorable.
Xavier Samuel plays a rather dashing Reginald De Courcy who falls for Lady Susan, to the horror of his family. He, by all accounts, is in his young twenties, while the Lady must be in her mid-thirties with a scandalous reputation. Kate Beckinsale is her usual beautiful self, however, her hair appeared a mess through most of the production. In fact, most of the ladies had rather wild hair, encircled with ribbon headbands.
I don’t know. Perhaps I was expecting a swoon-worthy romance and felt disappointed over a woman that I did not find endearing or likable. Perhaps, I’m just starved for another Mr. Knightly, Mr. Darcy, or Captain Wentworth to sweep me off my feet with words of endearment that go down in history. None of those elements are alive in this tale and hence lies my deep disappointment. Perhaps, I should have read the original work first.