Well, this is all a bit confusing! The young Jane Austen did write a novella called Love and Freindship [sic] reviewed here by Whispering Gums (who is an insightful guide to all things Austen) but this film by Whit Stillman is actually a rendering of another Austen novel completely, Lady Susan, also reviewed by Whispering Gums. I suspect that Stillman was riffing off the other double-barrelled Austen titles (Pride and Prejudice; Sense and Sensibility) and perhaps he thought that nobody would notice.
Kate Beckinsale is absolutely luminous in this film as Lady Susan Vernon, the rather merry widow who has been cast onto her own resources to find financial security for her rather wet daughter and herself. She is quick witted, acerbic and ambitious and uses her skills and beauty artfully. It’s a rather arch and knowing romp and thoroughly good fun, without being in the least ponderous.
Of course, the historian in me never quite goes away, and I found myself drawing links between the film and the financial dilemma of the female without means that I saw lived out through the life of the real-life Judge Willis’ sister Jane (known to the family as Jenny). I strongly suspect that she did not have the beauty, and she showed little evidence of the wiles of Lady Susan. Nonetheless, as with Austen’s other works, it’s an interesting commentary on early 1800s social and gender relations offered up to the historian’s eyes almost unwittingly.
I enjoyed this review of the movie: