Column

Under Circe’s Spell

Love and Friendship
Produced by Westerly Films 
Written and directed by Whit Stillman
from Jane Austen’s Lady Susan 
Distributed by Roadside Attractions 
and Amazon Studios 

Whit Stillman’s new film, Love and Friendship, is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s epistolary novella Lady Susan, an early and somewhat unfinished work she wrote when she was all of 19.  Stillman has taken the liberty of adding an ending and developing some characters, but nowhere do his additions seem at all at odds with the original’s intentions.  He was obviously under Austen’s full sway when he reshaped the narrative into his screenplay.  The results could hardly be more at one with the original’s theme, characterization, and steadily ironic wit.

Austen’s story focuses on an impossible woman named Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale), making her way in the world at the end of the 18th century.  She’s a widow in her mid-30’s who rejoices in the freedom fate has bestowed on her while bemoaning the lack of funds that came with her liberation.  Having recklessly wasted her husband’s estate while he was among the living, she’s reduced to preying on her family and friends to make up for the deficit.  This she does with wholly...

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