Jane Austen’s novella LADY SUSAN was one of my favorite reads of 2016. It was the first work she ever completed (that we possess a copy of) and was never published in her lifetime. And not only is it awesome, but it’s very un-Austenian. There’s relatively little moralizing. And Lady Susan herself is completely unlike any other Jane Austen character: she’s sly, amoral, and unrepentant.
They recently made a movie adaptation of this novella! It came out last year! It’s called LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP. I watched the movie just now, and I liked it quite a lot. The movie really attempts to capture the slyness of the original. It doesn’t go for laugh-out-loud comedy: everything has a more mordant air. The problem is, in large part, the acting. Oftentimes, characters are trying to be sly, but they come off as vacant. You’re like, “Do they get it? Do they want us to get it? What’s happening here?”
Eventually though people seem to get onto the same page, and the movie settles down into this maneuvering between Lady Susan, her daughter, and Lady Susan’s sister-in-law. And it’s great. Also Chloe Sevigny is in it as Lady Susan’s equally amoral, but slightly better-situated, American friend. The movie is 90 minutes long. Stick it out when it comes to the first thirty of those minutes. When it starts to get going, it really gets going. Usually this isn’t true of movies, which are shot out of sequence, but in some ways the movie felt like a play: the actors eventually got warmed up and got into their roles and everything felt much more natural.
Actually I think the biggest problem is the male romantic lead, who had zero personality. And no chemistry with Lady Susan! You’re like, why does he even think himself to be in love with her? What’s going on here? Ay mi. Anyway, it’s worth a watch. And it’s free on Prime.