Mediocrity in pretty dresses

Over the weekend, my mom and I went to see Whit Stillman's Love and Friendship, which has been receiving glowing reviews. I enjoyed the acting, the sets, and the fact that one of Jane Austen's lesser-known works (the novella Lady Susan) was getting some attention, but I thought the movie itself was pretty bad, and I blame most of that on Mr. Stillman. Here are my complaints, in no particular order:

1. Why did nearly all of the conniving heroine's schemes come to fruition off-screen? If Stillman was willing to expand and embroider upon Austen's original work, couldn't he have written a scene that allowed us to see all of her evil plans coming together? Who cares about her milky in-laws?

2. Did he have include every single one of Austen's one-liners? This might sound like sacrilege, but trimming a few snappy insults and jokes and focusing a bit more on, say, Mrs. Vernon and Lady Susan's smiling dislike of one another might have given the story a bit more emotional resonance. As it is, it felt like a really long trailer for another, better movie.

3. Why does everyone keep calling Lady Susan an unfinished work? It was finished. Sure, it ends on a weird note (after 55 pages of the characters exchanging letters, Austen abruptly ties everything up with a few pages of straightforward storytelling), but it definitely ends, and at one point the adult Austen made a fair copy of it.

Anyway, I've seen worse movies, but take it from me: even as a hardcore Austen fan, you can wait for this sucker to come out on DVD.
Posted by: Julianka


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