Wednesday, 1 June 2016

REVIEW - LOVE & FRIENDSHIP (WHIT STILLMAN)


A Summer in England, with Jane Austen for company. The stuff of sad Sunday afternoons is granted a renewal in Whit Stillman's lightly barbed adaptation of Lady Susan, Love & Friendship. It's a brisk, witty comedy whose humour works so well because it is so refreshing - rarely (if ever) exploited to this extent in an Austen dramatisation, and equally rarely delivered in this form in the 21st Century. Entirely inoffensive with broad-ranging appeal, it's thus a wonder that Love & Friendship is remarkable at all, though such is the charm of Stillman's film - one never queries the director's intentions nor his methods, never doubts the surety of his hand nor the success of its work, since the whole project has been crafted out of that most elusive, temperamental of qualities: quality itself. It's rather a treat to watch a film so comfortable in its style and tone, yet neither complacent nor excessively conventional. Indeed, the viewer may become so comfortable themselves with the many obvious positive attributes of Love & Friendship as to seek out alternative sources of satisfaction herein: strange how something as simple as two ladies ascending a staircase in tandem can be such a transfixing sight, but that is the integrity of Stillman's conceit. Alas, though the knotty verbosity of the script may result in one classic exchange of dialogue after another, so too does it result in a few bouts of narrative obfuscation; of little consequence, perhaps, but a genuine identifiable crease in the film's fabric. Furthermore, the stylistic value of Stillman's films remains as negligible as ever, even with expectations and obligations as low as they stand. But enough of judging a film for what it is not - what Love & Friendship is is a joyous film, delightfully written, perfectly performed, and willfully devoured!