A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Love & Friendship is a funny, fast-paced romantic drama adapted from an obscure, early Jane Austen text. While it deals largely with adult situations -- such as discussions of marriage and cheating, as well as manipulation and passionate discussions -- there's almost zero iffy content, so it's appropriate for tweens and up (as long as they can follow the complex language and intricate plot). The most vivid character is smart and strong, but she's also extremely manipulative and isn't afraid to use her looks and wits to get what she wants.
What's the story?
The beautiful, cunning, manipulative Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) is recently widowed and much gossiped about in LOVE & FRIENDSHIP. Regularly discussing her plans with her American friend, Alicia (Chloe Sevigny), Susan decides to visit her brother-in-law, Charles (Justin Edwards), and his wife, Catherine (Emma Greenwell), at their country estate. Susan's plan is to secure her financial future by landing a well-off husband, so she goes to work on her sister-in-law's younger brother, Reginald De Courcy (Xavier Samuel). Unexpectedly, Susan's teenage daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark), turns up, having run into issues at school. Selfishly, Susan attempts to match Frederica with the doltish, jabbering Sir James (Tom Bennett). But real love (and friendship) has a way of turning up, despite best-laid plans.
Is it any good?
A chronicler of well-read, well-spoken, upper-crust characters, writer/director Whit Stillman is perfectly, delightfully suited to Jane Austen, bringing a cheerful wickedness to her story. For Love & Friendship, Stillman apparently re-worked an early novella of Austen's called Lady Susan, and his sensibility miraculously meshes with hers. His penchant for characters who walk and talk makes an easy transition to 19th-century England.
The movie's beautiful, airy design, cinematography, and editing bring everything to life without making it feel like a stodgy, stuffy costume epic. Stillman's humorous, irreverent character introductions further eschew the traditional approach to literary adaptations. Playing perhaps Austen's prickliest character, Beckinsale (who was also in Stillman's The Last Days of Disco) has arguably her best role, and she plays it effortlessly. She's matched by Bennett, who brings a hilariously confident cluelessness to his Sir James.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Love & Friendship's use of sex appeal for manipulation and power. Is this acceptable in terms of the story? How much sexual content in media is appropriate for kids?
Does Lady Susan's behavior cause bad feelings in anyone around her? Which characters, and why? What are the consequences of those feelings?
How does this story compare to other Jane Austen books you may have read -- or movie/TV adaptations you've seen?
How are attitudes concerning love, gender roles, and economic class shown? How have things changed since the 1800s -- and how haven't they?
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