Chloe Sevigny (early-career, between Gummo and Boys Don’t Cry) works in publishing with her coworker/roommate/frenemy Kate Beckinsale, and they frequent the disco run by Chris Eigeman (Metropolitan). Kate dates ad-man Mackenzie Astin (star of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie a decade earlier), and Chloe dates Matt Keeslar (Waiting for Guffman, Rose Red), who turns out to be a district attorney investigating the club owners. Not being Stillman obsessives (yet) we didn’t recognize cameos by the Metropolitan and Barcelona casts.
M. ditched the movie halfway in, because she hated all the characters, but I thought hating the characters was part of the point (maybe not, since it’s based on Stillman’s own experiences) and greatly enjoyed. This came out a couple months before 54, less than a year after Boogie Nights, and I skipped it at the time, which was maybe smart since it’s more to my tastes now than in 1998.
A comedy about how easily manipulable men can be. I think Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) ends up getting everything she wants, though her American friend Mrs. Johnson (Chloë Sevigny) helps her figure out exactly what that is. Susan knows she wants to be married to someone rich, knows her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark of the Mia Wasikowska Madame Bodary) needs to be set up as well, and Susan doesn’t exactly want to break off her affair with the married Mr. Manwaring.
Susan is lodging with her dead husband’s sister in the country: the suspicious (but not unfriendly) Catherine (Emma Greenwell of TV’s The Path), and her brother, eligible bachelor Reginald (Xavier Samuel of The Loved Ones). The daughter is being pursued by doltish Sir James (Tom Bennett of TV’s Family Tree). Sevigny is back in London, strictly prohibited from associating with Lady Susan by her older husband Stephen Fry, so there’s some running around.
Fun movie with great dialogue and performances, and a few stylistic flourishes (opening titles set to music, character introductions, text onscreen when letters are read). This is the only Kate Beckinsale movie I’ve seen except her very first movie, Much Ado About Nothing. Makes me wanna watch Last Days of Disco right now, but I’ve already watched one Whit Stillman movie without Katy so I should wait.
Whit Stillman adapting Jane Austen is almost too perfect—and that’s especially true of Lady Susan, whose title character is orders of magnitude more duplicitous and destructive than any of the heroines in Austen’s proper novels … It’s fun to watch Lady Susan bulldoze her way through 18th-century propriety, but an entire film of wry breeziness is a bit like a seven-course meal that’s all sumptuous desserts … still, it’s not as if movies today offer such a surfeit of wit and sophistication that one as purely pleasurable as Stillman’s Love & Friendship can be dismissed.
EDIT, SEPT 2016: Watched again with Katy who is concerned that the characters and language (was “anxiety” the misused word?) don’t represent Jane Austen’s point of view. I continue to believe the following frame is one of the best-ever uses of onscreen text.