This film is a real treat so do not miss it! Whit Stillman, who also directs, has adapted Jane Austen’s early novella, Lady Susan, and has made a sparkling and witty romp, in which the laughs come thick and fast, reminding us, unlike some staid versions, that Austen was a very funny writer. The film is also beautifully made, in the good old tradition of BBC period drama, making it a surprise to know that Stillman is American. He is clearly a dedicated Austen student and fan.
Lady Susan Vernon, played brilliantly by Kate Beckinsale, a beautiful young widow, arrives at the country house of her in-laws just a step ahead of scandal. She has been just a tad too flirty with other women’s husbands so her name alone is enough to set off outrage in certain circles. Lady Susan sees herself as blameless, of course. Men flock to her, a situation she regards as normal and polite. Besides, she has work to do: finding a rich husband for herself and another for her young daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark), who has been conveniently abandoned at a boarding school. Her relatives (Emma Greenwell and Justin Edwards) welcome her a bit reluctantly; when she begins a dalliance with her hostess’ younger brother, Reginald (Xavier Samuel), the entire DeCourcy family despairs.
Lady Susan shares her inner thoughts with a sly American compatriot played by Chloë Sevigny. The minor chess pieces on her manipulative board are several lords. The older ones tend to disapprove, while the new pups hope to nuzzle close as suitors of either Vernon. With the likes of Stephen Fry in the group, they’re all impressively entertaining.
The film is full of delightful surprises. It’s edited with perfection, turning little nothings such as the sluggish behavior of a well-bred hound into a killer joke. Stillman has delivered a nonstop delight to thrill the existing Austen audience and crack up all the rest.
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