Stillman does Austen in Love & Friendship

A jaunty period piece

Whit Stillman’s been making movies about social-climbing affluent white people since before Wes Anderson knew what a tailor was. There’s always been an air, from his debut Metropolitan through 2011’s theoretically contemporary Damsels in Distress, of period-film stoicism in Stillman’s work. His dialogue and direction are equally precise and mannered, his often-static wide frames so dryly satirical it can feel like the movie is making fun of you directly. Love & Friendship is his first proper costume film—Jane Austen!—but this is no drama. Even the title cards crackle wittily, as if James Ivory was editing The Believer. Stillman reunites his Last Days of Disco muses Kate Beckinsale, whose widow Lady Susan Vernon is on the hunt for a new husband, and Chloe Sevigny as the out-of-place American Alicia Johnson. The requisite tossed-off zingers and genre subversion abound, with Tom Bennett nearly stealing the show as the charmingly rambling Sir James Martin. Love & Friendship takes the piss out of the high-falutin, with love and mischief.

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