My critic's pick this week at The New Criterion-Love & Friendship, directed by Whit Stillman
While The New Criterion does not generally cover cinema—our pages are better dedicated to less popular arts—we have long employed the Stillman Exception: i.e. we will gladly set aside space for anything having to do with the filmmaker Whit Stillman. The writer and director of the films Metropolitan (1990), Barcelona (1994), The Last Days of Disco(1998), Damsels in Distress (2011), and the serial The Cosmopolitans(2014), Stillman is our generation’s greatest auteur of the comedy of manners. So it should come as little surprise that Whit has now applied his wit to adapting the greatest novelist of manners, Jane Austen. Drawing on Austen’s little-known 1795 epistolary manuscript “Lady Susan,” which exists as the only surviving draft of any of her novels at the Morgan Library, Stillman’s new film Love & Friendshipbrings Austen’s strapped widow to the silver screen. Portrayed by Stillman veteran Kate Beckinsale in what is being hailed as a role of a lifetime, Lady Susan is the most likable of foxes to roam a Georgian garden, conspiring with her American friend (played by Chloë Sevigny, always at risk of getting sent back to Hartford, Connecticut) to bring her story to a happy resolution. A longtime Janeite, Stillman has called Austen his most agreeable collaborator and has also just published his own epistolary fan fiction with Little, Brown, Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated, as told by Lady Susan’s nephew, Martin Rufus Martin-Colonna de Cesari-Rocca. The film is now in limited release at New York’s Paris Theater and Angelika Film Center and will soon open nationwide.