Note: Spoilers below.
My exposure to Jane Austen has been through my sister Anna and the TV and film adaptations released over the past 20 years. I wouldn’t on my own see a Jane Austen film. But “Love & Friendship,” based on Austen’s “Lady Susan,” caught my attention and I persuaded my sister Liza to come along.
The humor shines in all the little sayings, especially from the blockhead Sir James Martin. The backhanded comments on America made me chuckle. The movie offers quick, witty introductions for the multitude of characters in the story.
Played by Kate Beckinsale, Lady Susan Vernon, a widow, seeks refuge from the gossip and husbands for her daughter, Frederica, and herself. Lady Susan plots and schemes throughout the movie. Unlike “Emma,” she doesn’t see the error of her ways and seems to get what she wanted: a husband and her lover living with them. The film captures her psychological projections onto Frederica (“she has learned to be manipulative”) and Reginald DeCourcy, her former suitor (“I cannot abide by your mistrust”).
Despite her schemes, the two people who were meant to be together are married: Reginald and Frederica. Both give touching moments of love at their wedding: Reginald with a poem and Frederica with a song. Maybe this is a comment on the triumph of true love despite all the brokenness in the world.
But I was left with a question: Did Lady Susan actually planned the end result since the beginning of the movie? If she has, she has exceptional cunning. One clue pointing to this is that Lady Susan tells her friend that she would cut the pride of Reginald down to size. Why cut him down unless she was planning never to be with him? Liza said that the changing circumstances prompt Lady Susan to marry Sir James. Her friend Alicia Johnson argues that it’s better to have Sir James as a husband than a son-in-law.