At 99% percent on Rotten Tomatoes, Love & Friendship, the movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, was a hit with critics. A.O Scott gave it a critic’s pick, but started his review with “In the past quarter-century or so, there have been too many Jane Austen movies and too few Whit Stillman movies.” If this reflects your own feelings on Jane Austen movies, then this film may be the perfect movie for you!
The tone, characters, and plot of the movie are quite different from other Austen films. In this the director Whit Stillman somewhat follows the book, which is also different from Austen’s other novels. The short novel was published only after Austen died, and as such it is a bit unfair to compare it against her other works because it is unclear how much her final version would have differed from what was published. It is also hard not to do so, however.
I seem to be in the minority in not liking the film nearly as well as the critics. I didn’t hate the film but found it merely okay, something perhaps better rented than seen in the theater. It had solid cinematography and acting but was perhaps too comedic for my tastes. However, it was much better, and not even in the same category, as such comedic disasters as Austenland.
Some of this can be attributed to the source material and some to Stillman’s changes. After seeing the movie, I decided to read Lady Susan, and see how it compared. Some of the problems I had with the film, I also had with the book. Some developments in the plot were a bit too convenient, although such things are not unusual in comedies, which tend to be less realistic.
Stillman also changed the ending. I won’t go into specifics so as to avoid spoilers, but this change didn’t entirely work for me for this film. It could perhaps have been a satisfying ending to a different film, however. I can see why he wanted to change the ending. In the book the ending seems a bit hastily put together and may not have made a great cinematic ending. Perhaps the ending was part of the reason why Austen never published the book herself. Stillman had a very different vision of what he wanted for Lady Susan’s character, but it is hard to change just the ending of a work.