Love & Friendship is rated U – no material likely to offend or harm.
The Scoop – A razor-shape take on a little-known Austen story
Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) – beautiful, widowed and wickedly witty – arrives to stay with her in-laws amid a cloud of society gossip. While Catherine DeCourcy Vernon (Emma Greenwell), her deceased husband’s sister, regards Susan with suspicion, Catherine’s handsome brother Reginald (Xavier Samuel) is soon smitten, much to the horror of his family.
When Susan’s daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) runs away from school, she too comes to stay with the DeCourcys – and idiotic suitor Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett) soon follows. With steely resolve, and with her friend Mrs Johnson (Chloe Sevigny) at her side, Susan sets about securing a future for herself and her daughter.
The brilliant Kate Beckinsale takes centre stage in this adaptation by American filmmaker Whit Stillman of a little-known, unfinished Jane Austen novella. Gorgeously costumed, sharply scripted and peppered with fantastic British character actors, this is a treat from start to finish – and a retort to anyone who’s ever viewed Austen as dull or stuffy.
Lady Susan feels like an almost shockingly modern character, while her machinations serve as a reminder that women throughout history have had to learn to be twice as sharp as their male counterparts in order to survive. There’s no dashing Darcy in sight: and while Love & Friendship may be harder to like than Austen’s better-known, more romantic stories, it’s got a caustic appeal all of its own.
- Did you enjoy the film, and why or why not? How does it compare with other Jane Austen adaptations you have seen? Why do you think Love & Friendship hasn’t been adapted before?
- Why do you think that Jane Austen stories remain so popular on the big and small screen? Do you think they’re still relevant in our time, or is it about escapism?
- What did you think of the casting and performances in the film? Why do you think the director cast lesser-known faces in many of the roles? What qualities did Kate Beckinsale bring to the character of Susan?
- Did you find the film funny, and what were some of its most amusing moments? How would you describe its sense of humour?
- How did you feel about Susan? Do you think we are supposed to like her, and why or why not? Were you rooting for her plans to succeed?
‘Isn’t it rather clear that it’s we women of decision who hold the trumps?’ – Susan
- What makes Susan ‘a woman of decision’? What factors limit her choices in life, and how does she work around these limits? What might have happened to her and her daughter if she hadn’t used her wits to get ahead?
- What moral code does Susan live by, and how does this compare to the morality of the other characters? Who acts out of self-interest, and who sees themselves as accountable to others or to a higher power? Does religion come into it at all?
‘Facts are horrid things.’ – Susan
- How did you feel about the story’s resolution, and were you surprised that it wasn’t more conventionally ‘romantic’? What sort of lives do you imagine Susan and Frederica will go on to have?
- Would you call Love & Friendship a cynical story, and why or why not? To what extent are we all pragmatic in our relationships?
- What reflections does the story ultimately offer on the two words in its title? Do we see any genuine ‘love’ and ‘friendship’ in the story, and if so what does it look like?