Love & Friendship
Love & Friendship is a 2016 period comedy film written and directed by Whit Stillman. Based on Jane Austen's epistolary novel Lady Susan, written c. 1794, the film stars Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, and Emma Greenwell. The film follows recently widowed Lady Susan in her intrepid and calculating exploits to secure suitably wealthy husbands for her daughter and herself. Although adapted from Lady Susan, the film was produced under the borrowed title of Austen's juvenile story Love and Freindship.
|Love & Friendship|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Whit Stillman|
|Screenplay by||Whit Stillman|
|Based on||Lady Susan|
by Jane Austen
|Music by||Mark Suozzo|
|Cinematography||Richard Van Oosterhout|
|Edited by||Sophie Corra|
|Box office||$19.7 million|
The film premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Theatrically released on May 13, 2016, by Roadside Attractions and Amazon Studios, the film received critical acclaim and was a box office success in North America, though it was not widely released (peaking at 826 theaters in its second week).
In the 1790s, the recently widowed and relatively young Lady Susan Vernon seeks a suitably wealthy match for her only daughter, Frederica, and a similarly wealthy husband for herself, in order to renew the state of her fortunes. After being unceremoniously turned out of the Manwaring estate due to her dalliance with the married Lord Manwaring (pronounced "Mannering"), she and her companion Mrs. Cross head to Churchill, the country home of her brother-in-law, Charles Vernon and his wife, Catherine Vernon (née DeCourcy). Lady Susan frankly discusses her plans during visits to her trusted friend, Mrs. Johnson.
Catherine and her brother, Reginald DeCourcy, are aware of Lady Susan's long-standing reputation as a determined and accomplished flirt. But under the influence of the amiable but dull Charles, Reginald agrees to keep an open mind, and soon finds himself enchanted with Lady Susan. When Reginald's father, Sir Reginald DeCourcy, catches wind of this, he travels to Churchill to warn Reginald against marrying Lady Susan lest the family name be sullied. But Reginald says their relationship is not romantic. However, it is not long before he and Lady Susan have reached an understanding.
Meanwhile, Lady Susan's daughter, Frederica, who has been attending a boarding school which her mother cannot afford, runs away and is then expelled. Frederica arrives at Churchill and, shortly thereafter, is followed by Sir James Martin, a man who is both very wealthy and very foolish. For example, upon arrival at Churchill, he explains that he struggled to find the estate as he had been looking for "church hill", a church and/or a hill. Later, he mentions the "Twelve Commandments" and when told there are only ten, he wonders which two should be disregarded.
While in London, Lady Susan's relationship with Lord Manwaring suddenly explodes into scandal. Lady Manwaring discovers that the illicit lovers are meeting in private and appeals to her guardian, Mr Johnson, to confront them. He refuses, and Reginald arrives with a letter from Lady Susan to Mrs Johnson, which Lady Manwaring snatches and reads. The contents reveal Lady Susan asking her friend Mrs Johnson to keep Reginald busy while she (Lady Susan) is with Lord Manwaring. Narrowly missing a departing Lord Manwaring, Reginald confronts an unruffled Lady Susan, who tells him that they cannot be married after all.
After returning to his sister's home, Reginald DeCourcy falls in love with Frederica, and the two are married. It then transpires that Lady Susan has married Sir James, who confides to Mrs. Johnson his joy at the prospect of becoming a father, having been informed on the day after his marriage that his new wife was with child. Sir James goes on to speak fondly of his newfound friend and long-term house-guest, Lord Manwaring, who was invited to stay by Lady Susan, and with whom he shares a love of hunting. Lord Manwaring, says Sir James, is someone who always enjoys hunting game of whatever merit, both "large and small".
- Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan Vernon
- Chloë Sevigny as Alicia Johnson
- Xavier Samuel as Reginald DeCourcy
- Stephen Fry as Mr. Johnson
- Emma Greenwell as Catherine DeCourcy Vernon
- Morfydd Clark as Frederica Vernon
- James Fleet as Sir Reginald DeCourcy
- Jemma Redgrave as Lady DeCourcy
- Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin
- Justin Edwards as Charles Vernon
- Jenn Murray as Lady Lucy Manwaring
- Lochlann O'Mearáin as Lord Manwaring
- Sophie Radermacher as Miss Maria Manwaring
- Kelly Campbell as Mrs. Cross
- Conor MacNeill as The Young Curate
Conception and developmentEdit
In May 2013, Whit Stillman announced his plans to shoot a period comedy. In July, it was confirmed that Stillman was filming an adaptation of Jane Austen's Lady Susan, titled Love & Friendship. Stillman hoped to shoot the film in Britain or Ireland. Unlike other Austen novels, Lady Susan has rarely been adapted for the screen. Stillman discovered Lady Susan in the late 1990s. After he had finished reading Austen's Northanger Abbey, Stillman found Lady Susan was included in the same edition and he became "fascinated" with the story, believing it "was too good not to be known". Stillman thought that the novel had some good features, but was inaccessible, causing it to be overlooked by filmmakers. During interviews at the International Film Festival Rotterdam screening of the film, Stillman stated that although the literary influences for the film were clearly taken from Jane Austen, the cinematographic influences for the film were developed from the Michael Caine and Steve Martin film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
In February 2014, Amanda Dobbins from New York reported actress Sienna Miller had been cast as Lady Susan, while Chloë Sevigny would play Susan's close friend Alicia. Miller later left the project to join the cast of American Sniper, and Kate Beckinsale replaced Miller as Lady Susan the next year. (Beckinsale and Sevigny had worked together on Stillman's The Last Days of Disco.) Xavier Samuel and Stephen Fry also joined the cast as Reginald and Mr. Johnson respectively. Other cast members include Emma Greenwell as Catherine Vernon, Morfydd Clark as Frederica, Jemma Redgrave as Lady DeCourcy, James Fleet as Sir Reginald DeCourcy, Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin and Justin Edwards as Charles Vernon. Stillman later confirmed that Clark was the first actor to be cast, followed by Fleet and Redgrave. The director also said he met with two other actors for the part of Sir James Martin, before Bennett was cast in the role.
Emily VanDerWerff writing for Vox referred to the successful aspects of Stillman's casting for the film stating: "Love & Friendship is filled with (casting) ringers. Stephen Fry pops up in what amounts to a one-scene cameo, and he's wickedly funny. Chloë Sevigny is great as his wife, Susan's American friend who finds herself constantly dealing with the protagonist's latest schemes. And Xavier Samuel is deliciously oblivious as the young man Susan tries to wed. But even the actors you've never heard of give wonderful performances. Love & Friendship marks one of Morfydd Clark's first film roles, and as Frederica she manages to transform the character's innocence into the basis for comedy instead of just a metaphor for everything Susan might destroy. That same level of skill is evident in every member of the ensemble."
The film received funding from Arte, the Irish Film Board and the Netherlands Film Fund. Principal photography was originally scheduled to begin in the summer of 2014, but later started on February 2, 2015 in Dublin. Filming also took place in the coastal town of Donabate, and at Russborough House, which was used as the exterior for two different residences in the film, and at Howth Castle, which featured as the exterior of 'Churchill'. For three weeks, scenes were shot on-location at the Newbridge Estate. On 16 March 2015, it was announced that filming on the production had wrapped. In a thirty-minute interview for AOL Build released on May 12, 2016 on YouTube between Stillman and Beckinsale, Beckinsale indicated that the entire filming was completed in 27 days. The film's assembly edit took place at the EGG Post Production house in Dublin, and continued in France and the Netherlands.
Irish costume designer Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh designed the clothing for the film. Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh used bold colours to show Lady Susan's transition from a widow in mourning to "a confident society lady". When the character is in the countryside, she wears mostly black, grey and mauve clothing, matching the mourning clothes of the period, but once she is in London, the colours become brighter and she wears more corseted dresses. The bold hues used for Lady Susan contrast with the more subtle blues, gold and bronze colours of Alicia Johnson's clothing. Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh used the colours to show that Alicia is not fully comfortable with country living, as she comes from the city. The designer also wanted Alicia to appear "quite ornamental" and as if she spent a long time choosing what to wear. Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh stated "The brilliant thing about this film – because all the characters are heightened versions of themselves, it gives you leeway to be bold and use color and texture ... so the costumes can be heightened as well."
On December 29, 2015, a contributor to Film Music Reporter confirmed the film's score was being composed by Mark Suozzo, who has composed the music for all of Stillman's previous films. French composer Benjamin Esdraffo wrote additional pieces, including the opening harp theme. The score was recorded in August 2015 at the Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, with Suozzo conducting the Irish Film Orchestra. Film editor Sophie Corra was involved in selecting the music, while Etienne Jardin, an expert on period music, helped with the musical research. Stillman commented that while Austen's novel was written during the 1790s, they felt earlier music appeared to reflect "the spirit of the piece" better. Suozzo added that "the music of Love & Friendship brings the Georgian era to life through a variety of musical styles". The soundtrack includes original compositions and well known and obscure classical pieces by William Boyce, George Frideric Handel, Henry Purcell, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Vivaldi. The score was released on May 6, 2016.
UK sales agency Protagonist Pictures represented the film at the European Film Market during the Berlin International Film Festival. Amazon Studios acquired the North American rights to the film, and teamed up with Roadside Attractions for its theatrical release. While Curzon Artificial Eye handled the film's UK release. Love & Friendship had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2016. The film received a limited release in the US on May 13, 2016 playing in four theatres, before going wide on June 10, 2016 to 826 cinemas.
A short six-minute documentary of the making of the film titled Behind the Scenes was released in May 2016 including interviews with the director, and the film's leading and supporting actors including Stephen Fry.
A novelization of the film written by the director Whit Stillman was announced for publication to coincide with the general release of the film on May 13, 2016. Alexandra Alter of The New York Times states in her 2016 interview article with Stillman, describing the novelization: "In the novel, Mr. Stillman takes the characters and plot from Austen's fictionalized letters and narrates the tale from the perspective of Lady Susan's nephew, who hopes to counter criticism of his maligned aunt. The 41 letters from Austen's Lady Susan are included in an appendix." Stillman told Alter that he felt Lady Susan was not quite finished and thought the form of the book was "so flawed". After realising that there was another story to be told, he convinced the publisher Little, Brown and Company to let him write the novel.
Love & Friendship earned $133,513 from four cinemas during its opening weekend in May 2016. The film has grossed over $19 million worldwide, against an estimated production budget of $3 million.
The film received acclaim from critics. On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, it has a "certified fresh" approval rating of 97%, based on 188 reviews with an average rating of 8.2 out of 10. The website's critical consensus states, "Love & Friendship finds director Whit Stillman bringing his talents to bear on a Jane Austen adaptation – with a thoroughly delightful period drama as the result." Metacritic gave the film an average score of 87 out of 100, based on 36 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".
A.O. Scott, in his review for The New York Times, gave high praise to Stillman as director of the film: "Mr. Stillman, who started out (with Metropolitan in 1990) as an anatomist of the manners and mores of the young American “urban haute bourgeoisie” and returned to filmmaking with the campus comedy Damsels in Distress (2012), is perfectly at home in Austen’s world. He approaches his literary source not with the usual reverence but with an appreciation for its freewheeling sense of fun. At times, most often when Mr. Bennett is onscreen, Love & Friendship is howlingly funny, and as a whole it feels less like a romance than like a caper, an unabashedly contrived and effortlessly inventive heist movie with a pretty good payoff." Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, in a rave review, described it as "a hilariously self-aware period comedy polished to a brilliant sheen," with particular praise reserved for Beckinsale and Tom Bennett, whose Sir James character "comes very close to pinching the whole film, with his gormless, grinning comedy".Kim Newman at Empire magazine awarded it 5 stars.
Writing for The New Yorker, Richard Brody found the film to be "deeply satisfying". In his summary of the film, Brody stated that: “Love & Friendship is both a worldview in motion and the story of how it crystallized; its portrait of a society changing suddenly, drastically, and gloriously through the delicate strategies and bold tactics of a woman who’s honest with herself about what she wants and what she’ll do to get it is strangely, deeply personal."
A contributor to the British news weekly The Economist praised Beckinsale's acting stating: "Lady Susan, who Ms Beckinsale brings to life with magnetism and charisma, masterfully uses her charm and wit to thrive in any situation. Even when an intercepted letter exposes her love triangle, she feigns outrage and offence at the breach of her privacy—DeCourcy ends up apologising to her. She is a beguiling woman in full control of her own allure, and uses her 'uncanny' understanding of the men’s natures with much success." The contributor added "Despite some flaws, Love & Friendship is a welcome addition to what we have come to know as the Austen adaptation canon. The film is rollicking, visually stunning and light. Lady Susan is an easy-to-love anti-heroine, a far cry from the rather dull Elizabeth Bennet or the irritating Dashwood sisters."
Writing for TheWrap on January 24, 2016, Alonso Duralde commented on the Sundance premiere of the film stating: "In the same way that Stillman has brought the courtliness of another era to his modern stories, in Love & Friendship he puts a contemporary twist on venerable material, down to a third-act twist that suggests behaviour that's anything but chaste. Were she around today, Miss Austen would, I think, smile upon this adaptation. And then she might add the upcoming Blu-ray of Stillman's Barcelona to her Amazon wish list."
Justin Chang of Variety described Beckinsale's role as "one of the most satisfying screen roles of her career.... Beckinsale magnetizes the screen in a way that naturally underscores how far ahead of everyone else she is: an effect that doesn't always work to the movie's advantage." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter remarked, "There aren't great depths to the role, but Beckinsale excels with the long speeches and in defining her character as a very self-aware egoist."
|List of awards and nominations|
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipients||Result||Ref(s)|
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists||December 21, 2016||Best Adapted Screenplay||Whit Stillman||Nominated|||
|Austin Film Critics Association||December 28, 2016||Best Adapted Screenplay||Whit Stillman||Nominated|||
|Chicago Film Critics Association||December 15, 2016||Best Adapted Screenplay||Whit Stillman||Nominated|||
|Critics Choice Awards||December 11, 2016||Best Actress in a Comedy||Kate Beckinsale||Nominated|||
|Best Costume Design||Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh||Nominated|
|Dublin Film Critics Circle||December 17, 2016||Best Actress||Kate Beckinsale||4th Place|||
|Best Screenplay||Whit Stillman||4th Place|
|Evening Standard British Film Awards||December 8, 2016||Best Actress||Kate Beckinsale||Won|||
|Best Supporting Actor||Tom Bennett||Nominated|
|Florida Film Critics Circle||December 23, 2016||Best Adapted Screenplay||Whit Stillman||Won|||
|Best Art Direction/Production Design||Love & Friendship||Nominated|
|Golden Tomato Awards||January 12, 2017||Best Wide Release 2016||Love & Friendship||6th Place|||
|Best Comedy Movie 2016||Love & Friendship||Won|
|Gotham Awards||November 28, 2016||Best Actress||Kate Beckinsale||Nominated|||
|Best Screenplay||Whit Stillman||Nominated|
|IndieWire Critics Poll||December 19, 2016||Best Supporting Actor||Tom Bennett||7th Place|||
|Best Screenplay||Love & Friendship||3rd Place|
|Irish Film and Television Academy||8 April 2017||Best Costume Design||Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh||Nominated|||
|Best Film||Love & Friendship||Nominated|
|Best Make Up/Hair||Eileen Buggy and Lynn Johnson||Nominated|
|Best Production Design||Anna Rackard||Nominated|
|London Film Critics' Circle||January 22, 2017||Actress of the Year||Kate Beckinsale||Nominated|||
|British/Irish Actor of the Year||Tom Bennett (also for David Brent: Life on the Road)||Nominated|
|British/Irish Actress of the Year||Kate Beckinsale||Won|
|British/Irish Film of the Year||Love & Friendship||Nominated|
|Film of the Year||Love & Friendship||Nominated|
|Screenwriter of the Year||Whit Stillman||Nominated|
|Supporting Actor of the Year||Tom Bennett||Won[a]|
|Online Film Critics Society||January 3, 2017||Best Supporting Actor||Tom Bennett||Nominated|||
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Whit Stillman||Nominated|
|Rotterdam International Film Festival||February 7, 2016||Big Screen Award||Whit Stillman||Nominated|||
|San Diego Film Critics Society||December 12, 2016||Best Adapted Screenplay||Whit Stillman||Won|||
|Best Costume Design||Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh||Nominated|
|Best Production Design||Anna Rackard||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards||February 19, 2017||Best Costume Design||Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh||Nominated|||
|Seattle International Film Festival||June 12, 2016||Best Actress||Kate Beckinsale||Nominated|||
|St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association||December 18, 2016||Best Adapted Screenplay||Whit Stillman||Won|||
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