“Love and Friendship,” 4 stars out of five. Out in theaters.
Who knew that director Walt Stillman would be the perfect match for Jane Austen? Looking back at his “comedies of manners” trilogy “Metropolitan,” “The Last Days of Disco” and “Barcelona,” it’s a wonder that he hadn’t adapted one of her works sooner.
Kate Beckinsale stars as Lady Susan Vernon, a widow with a saucy reputation who is looking for a husband for herself and her daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark). Being a woman without means, Lady Susan stays with her in-laws in a country estate where she sets her sights on young Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel), a wealthy bachelor. There’s a bit of a love rectangle going on involving Lady Susan, Reginald, Frederica and Frederica’s intended fellow Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett). James is loaded in dough but lacking in brains. Lady Susan’s co-conspirator in this tale is American ex-pat Alicia (Chloë Sevigny), who sets up meetings for Lady Susan and her married lover Lord Manwaring (Lochlann O’Mearáin).
Stillman is known for his use of witty dialogue in his films, and working off of an Austen novella transports his world in the 18th century. Beckinsale delivers sharp putdowns throughout the film, making Lady Susan a venomous woman not to be messed with. Beckinsale and Sevigny, co-stars in “The Last Days of Disco,” are back together and just as cunning now as they were in the 1998 film. “Love and Friendship” shows how hard it was for women to secure a spot in society on their own without a husband, and thank goodness that way of thinking is over. Scene-stealers Bennet and Jenn Murray as the jilted Lady Lucy Manwaring are delightful in their roles.
There are some parts of the film that are confusing with some of the action happening through letter-writing and quick speeches, so paying attention is key. Otherwise, it’s a great 90-minute block of fine manners, costumes and acting.
“The Lobster,” 4.5 stars out of five. Out in theaters
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos previously directed the disturbing 2011 film “Dogtooth” and makes his English-language debut with the more accessible “The Lobster.” Taking place in a futuristic dystopia, single people are forced to check into a hotel where if they can’t find a love interest within 45 days, they will turn into the animal of their choosing. For main character David (Colin Farrell), his animal is the title creature. Unable to live by the hotel’s strict rules, David flees to the woods where the Loners live and have their own bizarre restrictions on love. In the group he falls in love with a compatible woman (Rachel Weisz), and together they try to survive on the fringes of society.
There aren’t that many anti-romance films, but “The Lobster” fits this characterization. In this society, coupledom is a requirement, and the characters in this film are as much unlovable as it gets. People are paired according to physical attributes such as having a lisp, good hair or a limp. Farrell is not in heartthrob shape and Weisz is not very glamorous. Instead, they’re just regular people in a severely messed-up world.
While “The Lobster” is a toned-down effort by Lanthimos, his use on satire and social commentary is still strong. He puts his characters in unusual situations that are normal in this setting he has built. The poignant use of classic music throughout the film is appropriate and adds dimension. Lanthimos has created a strange yet charming take on the value of pairing off.