Film Review: ‘Love and Friendship’ fails to meet expectations

Morgan Smith

“Love and Friendship” is a decidedly average enigma of a film.

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I went in with high expectations. The film had a stellar Metascore and a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but I can only assume that was because there happened to be some hardcore Jane Austen fans flocking to the internet that week. Does it deserve such high praise? Definitely not.

Will you enjoy this if you enjoy Austen? Yes and no. The novella this film is based off of, “Lady Susan,” is completely unlike all of Jane Austen’s other works. In the rest of the Austen canon, characters are faced with the ultimate romanticist dilemma: how to intertwine marriage with love and how to be true to one’s spouse. 

Such morality is thrown out the window in “Love and Friendship” (which is certainly not a bad thing), because in the end, marriage for financial stability and even adultery are rewarded in a happy conclusion, a rarity for the time period. 

My problem is that the film and its construction hardly reflect the rarity that this story deserves. 

It’s smartly played as a black comedy with clear nods to the work of Wes Anderson, from the fitting B-movie style portrait introductions of every character at the beginning to the adorably awkward interactions between the screwball characters. The comedy is just spread out too thin to be substantial. 

It is mostly the occasional half-witty comment that invokes a forced laugh from some audience members, the sassy comeback that has become the standard mode of communication for “Game of Thrones” characters. The major mistake in the department of comedy is giving all the laughs to the supporting character, Sir James Martin. 

Martin, played impeccably by Tom Bennett as a complete social disaster who never quits and steals the show in every scene, which is definitely a bad thing. I was laughing without fail whenever he appeared on screen, only to unhappily return to the other, quite honestly, dull characters who are not given enough material. When a film is as unbalanced as this one, it is usually because the characters who are supposed to be carrying the whole thing lack depth. 

Kate Beckinsale does a lovely job as Lady Susan, but her character is one we all know. She is your stereotypical witty woman who also has good looks who can bend men to her will. She never breaks or develops this throughout the entire story. In fact, she seems to have no real challenges throughout the film, which always spells disaster. Without obstacles for your protagonist, there is nothing to entice you to keep watching. Because of this, most scenes seem superfluous because we know that Lady Susan will succeed, and all others pale in comparison to her and have no chance of getting what they want.

Final Score: 7/10

It’s cute and fun to watch at first, but hardly worth even an hour and a half. This boredom isn’t even due to the deliberate slow-pacing and classical style of the editing and cinematography of the film, though ample changes to these would certainly have been welcome to match the modern style of its heroine. 

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Collegian Reporter Morgan Smith can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @MDSFilms.