For Reel

Love & Friendship (2016)
June 7, 2016, 12:35 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Whit Stillman
3.5 Stars
Love & FriendshipWith four films that chronicle the manners of the social elite to his name, it hardly seems a stretch for writer-director Whit Stillman to adapt a great social satirist of the 19th century. Stillman adapts Jane Austen so notably different than anyone who has attempted it that Love & Friendship works as literary criticism—gone are the sweeping romantic parameters, where corsets and bodices barely restrain the pleasures of the flesh. Instead, Stillman focuses on relationships that are very much linked to one’s financial self-interest. To Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale), acquiring a husband is no different than finding a business partner. True to Stillman’s style, everything is played impossibly dry—in fact, as an artist he seems to be parodying himself with his humorous use of character introductions and superimposed text. They are stylistic motifs reminiscent of Wes Anderson, only Stillman’s artifice is meant to encourage the false pretenses of these characters. As comedies get crasser and more outlandish, it is nice to have an alternative where the humor comes from pointed jabs and asides. If dialogue is king in the film, however, Tom Bennett’s performance as Sir James Martin (“a bit of a rattle”) is a show-stopper. He arrives in the film as a runaway from a Monty Python sketch—full of awkward pauses, misinformed tirades, and a ceaseless giggling cheer, making the man both a memorable dunce and impossibly lovable.

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