1790s: Susan Vernon has no redeeming virtues other than saucy charm and truly Wildean wit. She decamps to her sister-in-law Catherine’s elegant country estate to escape the adverse effects of a scandal circulating through polite society, and to secure a replacement for her recently deceased husband.
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More going on here than meets the eye. Killer, but subtle staging, Morfydd Clark's face distorted by an uneven glass surface, the dialogue, which for once in a fleur-de-lis clad setting, inspires real laughs and not mere polite chuckles.
Genuinely fun, witty and at times laugh out funny in ways I did not think a Jane Austen's story could be imagine. Lady Vernon is devilishly charming and deceitfully charming played by Kate Beckinsale who even though has not impressed me before is delightful here, whilst Tom Bennet's preposterous upper class twit Sir James is the film's true scene-stealer.
It's quite a script, and quite brilliant. Kate Beckinsale, I must say did an incredible performance as the deceitfully cunning, Lady Susan Vernon. The film manipulates you as much as its protagonist. But I must say, this could be very well misunderstood by some half-baked menenists. Just putting it out there!
Whit Stillman finally gives in and makes a direct adaptation of Jane Austen, and proves his bona fides by picking an obscure corner of her work. This is his most purely confectionery film, the only one unconcerned with loss or pain or loneliness. But it's not without witty cinematic ideas. Note the title he picked: men will have their uses, but the relationship between Kate and Chloe is the only one that will last.
There’s hardly a more suitable filmmaker than Whit Stillman to adapt Jane Austen's endless wit. With a sardonic approach to the soap-ish contours of British high society in the 18th century, Stillman uses his trademark sophistication and wonderfully divisive writing to instigate the pleasures of manipulation whilst empowering the intellect of women in an age otherwise neglected.
I think Susan is meant to be an anti-hero gleefully smashing the conventions of Austen adaptations, a metaphorical/real-life proto-hero for contemporary women fighting slut-shaming and male ridiculousness that has held the reins from Churchill to 2016 Brooklyn. Like Alex in Clockwork Orange, she is unpleasant & immoral, moral & heroic in her freedom and resistance to the oppressive, inhuman conventions of her world.
Stillman's latest retains some of the winningly gleeful goofery from Damsels in Distress, but the fun--necessarily, if anything like a faithful adaptation was desired, as it clearly was--is tempered by the ornately prolix exposition and plotting overkill typical of Austen's writing. The hybrid mostly works, but the machinations sometimes lose their demoniac luster and become merely trying. Paging Sir James Martin!
Interest of full disclosure: there were a couple pockets I hit w/ this thing where I felt suitably champagne-drunk and slightly giddy. Not too many. Mostly I found these characters remarkably tiresome, and, frankly, repellent. I had little dreams of the French Revolution. Kept wishing some Robespierre would come along to slaughter these lambs. The book must be horrid, the only good things here being cinema things.