Love & Friendship offers courtly romance through delectably exquisite dialogue. Austen's period work has nearly been fully adapted, but trust her novella 'Lady Susan' to be one of the most fulfilling costume dramas available. It's not a perfect swan song, but more a myriad of verses that make use of a delicious lexicon as if all the characters have consumed Thesauruses. The refreshingly delightful screenplay gives life to the typical costumes and Austen period setting, making it a pleasant Sunday afternoon drama. Lady Susan, a recent widow, calculatingly exploits herself and her daughter to secure financially stable husbands.
First and foremost, period romances/dramas are not my cup of tea. Never have been, never will be. The critical acclaim somewhat attracted me to the feature, and I'm glad it did. Stillman's screenplay, dressing up Austen's original words, is assuredly perfect. A harmonious balance of character development, dry British wit and preposterous pompousness that gives life to the intricacies that Lady Susan carefully injects into these extensive families. Seriously. In particular Sir James' naive tomfoolery was incredibly hilarious, something as simple as assuring one's self that there are "twelve commandments" instead of ten, happened to make me laugh.
The majority of the script wouldn't work without Beckinsale's stellar central performance. I could listen to her all day. She makes me want to whip out a Dictionary and envelop myself in Austen's vocabulary. Sublime. The supporting cast unfortunately became drowned by her excellence, especially Sevigny who was underused as "The American". Speaking of, the character introductions were supremely innovative and a nice detailed touch, harking back to those classic TV adaptations. In fact the entire film is shrouded in this sense of classicism, and really makes the drama feel authentic.
From Stillman's direction to the gorgeous cinematography. The story itself isn't exactly the most involving, consistently switching between various families often felt perplexing and overcomplicated the narrative. But with a film title such as the pleasing Love & Friendship, it very much ticks all the boxes. There's love, there's friendship, and there's plenty of pleasantness to behold. Just give me more Lady Susan!