Grade C +

The worst adaptation I’ve seen of a Jane Austen story.

Kate Beckinsale plays a widow who has a talent for manipulating people.  With no source of income, she is dependent on the good will of her friends and relatives to keep her and her young daughter from being homeless.  But instead of being humble and grateful, Beckinsale retains her pompous, superior attitude; and too often insults her benefactors openly or behind their backs.  Knowing that she can’t live on the good graces of her friends and relatives forever, Beckinsale spins her spider’s web and attempts to marry off her daughter to a rich man who is kind, dimwitted, and suffers from diarrhea of the mouth.  Adding to the drama is the daughter’s refusal to marry the man, despite Beckinsale’s warnings of what a woman must deal with if she is poor.

There are other complications, of course, and many, many characters in “Love And Friendship” — this is an Austen based movie, after all.  But the running time of 1 hour and 32 minutes should be a red flag to all fans of movies based on the writings of Austen.  With such little time given to tell the story, the fillmakers are forced to rush the story…and it shows, especially in the first few minutes when the audience is force-fed the names of a dozen characters and how they relate to each other.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Love & Friendship” is the scene when the rich, dimwitted man introduces himself to Beckinsale’s relations.  He moves like a hyper child, prattling on almost incoherently as his scatterbrain tries to focus on the conversation at hand, producing the funniest part of the movie.

Compared to the brilliant BBC productions of “Pride And Prejudice” and “Sense And Sensibility,” “Love & Friendship” feels half-baked.  It’s like eating a poorly cooked, 5 pound steak in 15 minutes.  The fine acting did save this movie from a much lower grade — I wanted to make that clear as the actors were not the ones at fault for how disappointing this movie turned out.

–M

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