Love & Friendship sees Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny reteam with director Whit Stillman for a delightfully humorous adaptation of a Jane Austen novella.
Lady Susan is a renowned flirt amongst her peers, a recently widowed socialite who is driven by her desire to preserve her elevated status amongst the upper echelon of the English aristocracy. Armed with well-honed sense of humour and intellect, Lady Susan and her friend Alicia Johnson (Chloe Sevigny) set about forming a plan that will see Susan's daughter Frederica married into a wealthy family, setting them up for life.
Simply put, this is the best Beckinsale has ever been onscreen. She's instantly at home trading barbs over tea and scones in the dining room. Her crisp English accent paves way for oozing natural charisma in a charming lead performance that elevates Love & Friendship to a whole another level. Witnessing Beckinsale scything her way through a ballroom or facing off with a rival through some intricate wordplay is an absolute delight. It's an astoundingly accomplished and enjoyable performance, especially impressive when Susan's tactics and motives aren't as squeaky clean as those around her.
It helps enormously that Beckinsale isn't the only sharp tool in the shed; Aussie actor Xavier Samuel is brilliant as the dashing Reginald DeCourcy whilst Emma Greenwell matches their quality in her role as his sister Catherine. The regular scene-stealer is Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin, a rather dim-witted gentleman who Lady Susan hopes will wed her reserved teenage daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark). His blithering ramblings are hilarious fun. Stillman's crisp screenplay doesn't get bogged down by stilted dialogue, instead striving to showcase just how fun and irreverent Austen can be.
The Verdict: 8/10
Arriving at the tail end of a blockbuster season littered with disappointments, Love & Friendship is the ultimate pick-me-up. Who knew Austen could be so much fun? Beckinsale gives the best performance I've ever seen from her, filled with insatiable charisma and sexiness.
Love & Friendship is in cinemas across Australia now