Beautiful Kate Beckinsale a Devious Heroine of “Love & Friendship”
By Skip Sheffield
Kate Beckinsale is one gorgeous woman. She uses that beauty to great advantage playing the scheming, devious heroine of “Love & Friendship,” adapted by Whit Stillman from the 1794 Jane Austen novella “Lady Susan.”
Kate Beckinsale is Lady Susan Vernon, a recent widow with impeccably good taste but little in the way of monetary resources. In an attempt to regroup, she visits the elegant Churchill estate owned by her brother-in-law Charles Vernon (Justin Edwards). Charles’ wife Catherine (Emma Greenwell) is immediately and justifiably suspicious of Lady Susan’s intentions.
Lady Susan has two goals: to land Catherine’s hunky younger brother Reginald De Courcy (Xavier Samuel) and hook up her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) with wealthy, older but idiotic Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett).
Aiding and abetting Lady Susan’s schemes is her American friend Alicia Johnson (Chloe Sevigny), who is married to the “very respectable” Mr. Johnson (Stephen Fry).
More so than Catherine, Lady Susan has a jealous rival in Lady Lucy Mawaring (Jean Murray), who threatens to spill the beans on Lady Susan’s dalliances back in London.
Though it looks like Masterpiece Theatre with its gorgeous settings and beautiful vintage costumes, “Love & Friendship” is never dull or stuffy. The scene-stealer is Tom Bennett’s cheerful, blithering idiot Sir James Martin, who represents the intellectual vacuity of Britain’s wealthy landed gentry.
It is Kate Beckinsale who keeps us riveted to the screen. Beckinsale’s Lady Susan knows every trick in the book on the art of seduction, and it is marvelous to watch this deadly devious but always charming, fascinating woman in action.