The Film (5/5)
I will preface this by admitting that while I have read a good deal of Jane Austen's work in the past, I am not what one might call a fan of her writings. However, having become a newly minted fan of the quite limited filmography of Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, The Last Days of Disco) I knew that any film in his repertoire is certainly worth seeing regardless of the source material.
Love and Friendship is based on an early written work by Jane Austen entitled Lady Susan. The book was written by Austen in 1794, but it would not be pulished in her lifetime, and it would be nearly a century before such an event would occur. The tone of the book as in the film adaptation would be vastly different for Austen as the female lead would not only be vastly independent, but quite selfish and slightly immoral in her approach.
Stillman's film adaptation follows Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) as she traverses rural England and eventually London looking for a rich suitor to replace her late husband, while also looking for a husband for her estranged daughter Frederica. Unfortunately, Lady Susan has a reputation for being manipulative within the social circles in which she dwells. This makes life difficult for the people whom she attaches herself to.
Love and Friendship is an interesting filmic take on Austen. While it certainly portrays the characters and setting as true to the authors original intent. I couldn't help but feel that this was still a Stillman piece down to its core. It could almost be seen as a Metropolitan of the 19th century. The characters are upper class, well educated individuals, who spend much of the films running time engaging in deep and engaging conversations. These conversations reflect the nature of their lives and philosophical belief systems much like their 20th century character counterparts in Stillman's films of the 1990's (full disclosure, I have not seen Damsel in Distress as of this writing).
The direction from Stillman is quite simple, but effective as it allows the performances from the truly tremendous cast to shine through. It also allows his screenplay to really come out through the main players with sharp, insightful, and occasionally funny dialogue. The performances are as can be expected with a cast this excellent across the board with Kate Beckinsale doing marvelous work as Lady Susan and Chloe Sevigny as her friend Alicia Johnson. He also get a truly dynamic and wonderful performance from Morfydd Clark as Susan's long suffering daughter Frederica. It is of course always wonderful to see Jemma Redgrave and Stephen Fry on screen, and they have wonderful turns as well.
Sony presents Love and Friendship with a quite spectacular 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The film has excellent detail throughout its presentation, solid blacks, and colors are well reproduced. I did notice a few minor instances where noise crept into the frame, but mostly the image was clear and crisp.
The audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track in English. The track is quite solid with dialogue and score coming through clearly, and no issues to write about.
One extra only, and that is a 10 minute making of simply title "Behind the Scenes: Love and Friendship". A Criterion release this is not.
Love and Friendship surprised me, while I am not a huge fan of the work of Jane Austen. This felt like a nice cross section between her work, and the prior works of director Stillman making the film a crossover success. The Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic, but only has one 10 minute extra without much depth to it. The film itself is highly recommended, the release is RECOMMENDED.