Often described as the WASPy version of Woody Allen, filmmaker Whit Stillman (“Metropolitan,” “Barcelona”) has made a career out of sharp, witty observations of the urbane and affluent upper classes. But so far, all of his films have been largely contemporary, “The Last Days Of Disco” being his one “period” film that looked back on the same class and culture of (white) people in the late 1970s. But by and large, all of his films are of a piece: droll comedy-of-manners pictures with similar societal concerns and preoccupations.
But for his next film, “Love And Friendship,” Stillman will at least examine brittle social interplay from an entirely different era. Starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny, his two muses from ‘Disco,’ Stillman’s fifth film is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s unpublished early novella “Lady Susan.” Here’s the synopsis from Sundance where the film premiered:
Set in the opulent drawing rooms of eighteenth-century English society, Love & Friendship focuses on the machinations of a beautiful widow, Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), who, while waiting for social chatter about a personal indiscretion to pass, takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ estate. While there, the intelligent, flirtatious, and amusingly egotistical Lady Vernon is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica—and herself too, naturally. She enlists the assistance of her old friend Alicia (Chloë Sevigny), but two particularly handsome suitors (Xavier Samuel and Tom Bennett) complicate her orchestrations.
Co-starring Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Tom Bennett, and Stephen Fry, one might argue a haughty, Victorian-era comedy of fragile social dynamics is very much in the filmmaker’s wheelhouse despite the change of epoch. Maybe nothing’s really changed, and for Stillman, that’s probably ok.
“Love & Friendship” opens on May 13th. Watch below. New poster via E!