Although his 2016 release Love & Friendship didn’t catch as much buzz as some other films out on the festival circuit, Walt Stillman’s Love & Friendship boasted great laughs and star power for days. Based on a forgotten novella by Jane Austen, called “Lady Susan”, the action starts with Kate Beckinsale’s character Susan—and her beautiful young daughter—being unceremoniously kicked out of a relative’s home. Certainly, the character Susan Vernon is one that Kate Beckinsale truly enjoyed playing; after filming, she hit the talk show circuit with a vengeance, drumming up buzz for the comedic movie.
Indeed, it seems that Beckinsale’s Susan is a character who manages to make a reputation for herself everywhere she goes, sometimes leaving a horrific mess in her wake. In this way, the woman resembles a social tornado. Nowadays, she might be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder or even sociopathy. But back in the 1790s, people like Susan didn’t go to talk therapy. They went to parties. And there are no shortage of wonderful gatherings in this delightful film, which also manages to portray how difficult life may have been for a woman like Susan, whose husband had died, leaving her penniless.
Although Susan and her daughter are cut from distinctly different cloth, they both manage to find their own versions of happiness in the film. Susan’s daughter Frederica is everything she is not—honest, wide-eyed and musically gifted. But she also does not possess her mother’s cunning social instincts, which seems to hurt her in certain respects. All throughout the movie, power seems to go back and forth between these two. It’s a fascinating character study. Also, fans of The Last Days of Disco will be happy to see Beckinsale reunited with co-star Chloe Sevigny in this film.