This past week, I was lucky enough to convince my friend Callie - She Who Lends Books, as well as enjoys Austen adaptations just as much, if not, somehow, more, than I do - to come with me to a screening of the newest inductee into that particular club, Love & Friendship, at Sundance Cinema, just a stone's throw away from the Ave. I had first informed her of the movie back when we were taking an English class together Spring Quarter (in which we both got 4.0s, thankyouverymuch), and she had heard of a deal that allowed us to get tickets for only $6, so we made a ladies night of it!
I had been somewhat trepidacious of the film when I had first watched the trailer back in January, mainly because I already recognized the title: while the trailer billed it as "Jane Austen's Comic Gem," it's actually one of her works of juvenalia, written when she was just a teenager, and is widely unread in comparison to her classic novels. More deceptive still, the movie itself is actually based on a different work of Austen juvenalia, titled Lady Susan, a novel that is even less likely to have been read or published! I was worried it was just an attempt at cashing in on a famous name for the sake of a half-made period movie, and the title swaps did nothing to persuade me to think otherwise.
Which means I was completely unprepared for the fact that I'd be laughing every three lines the actors managed to deliver, and would frequently be looking to Callie, only to see her giggling, too. It was easy for us Austen fans to love this film, but as it went on, and we were confronted with not just witty one-liners, funny faux pas, and even modern directions of comedy taking place on screen, I became thoroughly convinced that anyone could love this movie.
for the die-hard Darcy lovers...
If you love Jane Austen, obviously you are going to love the fact that Austen wrote it. However, beyond even that basic element, there's plenty to be enjoyed, like historical elements and antique social graces.
The filming locations and the outfits are probably one of the most prominent things to drool over, for fans of the Austen era: as soon as the movie got out, Callie and I started for home by ranking some of our best and worst looks for the characters (keep an eye out for a particularly iffy pink-and-blue getup worn by Kate Beckinsale's Lady Susan around the movie's halfway point!). But oh, all that sumptuous velvet and embroidered lace, all those bustles and petticoats and everything else! I, for one, petition to bring back the popularity of incredibly stylish lace headbands.
Additionally, the comments made about the time period - both directly and indirectly - deliver some of the film's most subtle funny moments, too. For instance, those in the know about England's dietary foundations know that peas are a substantially important produce for the area, which makes the foppish and idiotic Sir James Martin look even more the fool at his astoundment over the peas on his plate ("Novelty vegetables!"). Even Lady Susan's interactions with her best friend, Alicia Johnson - played by deadpan Chloe Sevigny - over threats made by the latter's husband to send her back to Connecticut, are riotous, based on Susan's complete condescension of the United States. It's these kinds of moments that really impress those who love the classics.
for the casual comedy fans...
Don't be turned off by the fact that this has every outward appearance of a period piece; the proliferation of modern funny moments throughout the film, as well as the stellar comedic performances by some of the film's main actors, make the production an inherently hilarious one.
The modern elements of the film's production that utilize more timely humor are some of the most interesting stylistic choices, as well. For instance, the integration of typeface that appears on screen when characters do things like read letters or poetry, is a purely contemporary kind of humor, one made unique by the medium. Additionally, one of my favorite parts of the movie was the way it introduced the characters: through type of their name and brief character description appearing beneath their faces, often to hilarious effect.
The highlight of why this film would appeal to even those who don't like Austen, are the comedic performances by some of the film's most ridiculous characters. Cringe-worthy conversations with the aforementioned Sir James Martin, and the hysterical Lady Manwaring, both made for entertaining moments that reminded me a lot of ludicrous performances you'd see on television, like on The Office. These modern perspectives of humor did a lot to freshen up the film's overall aesthetic, as well as appeal to viewers beyond the witticisms of its Austen origins.
In summary, while the adaptation itself doesn't truly hold through as an Austen classic like some of her big- and small-screen novel adaptations due, it's an incredibly fun and funny film that will definitely appeal to Austen fans, but also those who might not love her other works... just in case you needed a friend to go see it with you.
Have you seen, or are planning on seeing, Love and Friendship? What's your favorite Austen adaptation? Let me know, in the comments below!