Have you ever heard of this movie before? I haven’t. My knowledge of this film doesn’t extend past seven hours, and there was only one theatre playing it in my area today.
My wife and I are celebrating our 1-year anniversary today and, being the wonderful lady that she is, she asked me if I wanted to go see a movie. Now I haven’t seen Angry Birds or Neighbors 2, but I am almost assuredly not going to enjoy either film, so I tried seeking out another film that my wife and I both might enjoy. Low and behold, I found this film, an eighteenth-century period piece starring that one girl from Underworld (yes, yes, I know her name is Kate Beckinsale). I thought this would just be a slightly cheesy movie that my wife would love and I’d at least be able to write about.
Ironically enough, my wife thought it was only okay, and I greatly enjoyed myself.
Beckinsale plays a widow going from friend’s house to friend’s house in an attempt to keep a roof over her head and to hunt for a man who would marry her. At the beginning of the movie, I found her quite charming, but as the film progressed, I became irritated at how manipulative and incessant she was becoming. However, the point of her character is that she is supposed to be manipulative and incessant, so I can’t really fault the film for creating an obnoxious character if that was the intention.
The large number of ensemble and supporting characters mainly serve as vessels for Beckinsale’s manipulation. Her American friend, her in-laws, her quiet daughter, her daughter’s insufferable suitor, they all seem to have one thing in common: they all are just pawns to her schemes. However, these characters all have enough definable traits to be interesting, so the movie doesn’t feel like it’s just a spectacle of destruction (something that “The Boss” was greatly guilty of). I found that even though Beckinsale was the lead character, I ultimately sympathized with everyone else around her more.
The humor in this film is quite delightful. British films seem to get comedy in a way that nearly every recent American comedy misses: humor needs to be built up, it needs to be relevant, and it needs to be expressed in the facial expressions and the tone of characters and not just the words the characters used.
Dirty Grandpa, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, Whisky Tango Foxtrot, The Boss, Keanu, nearly every American comedy I’ve seen this year seems to settle for relying on the absurd and the hyperbolic in order to get the audience to laugh, but when that is the only chair-leg your comedy can stand on, the humor quickly becomes useless because audiences members will soon become desensitized.
Because this film is British, and the accents and some of the words can be foreign, more attention must be given for this film if you have any hope of making sense of it. Luckily, I found that the more the story progressed, the more I could make sense of the story without having my brain on at full capacity.
Love & Friendship is not without its faults. Aside from the absolutely forgettable title of the movie, the beginning of the film throws a lot at you within the first fifteen minutes. The film has this interesting way of introducing all of their characters by putting a close-up on them along with their name and a rather humorous description of who they are. I understood this to be mainly for the sake of comedy, but the movie throws so many names at you so soon in the film that I could not remember a single name. Kind of a problem when it seems like part of the intention for these scenes was to introduce the array of characters.
My wife and I both agreed that at one point in the movie, we both were wondering if there was going to be any grand point to Love & Friendship whatsoever. There was also no scene that gave a huge catharsis for me, and I was hoping there would be one because Beckinsale’s character was becoming tiresome. However, I believe there is an underlying theme throughout the movie despite there being no huge cathartic scene. I think the absence of relief may be part of the charm of this movie: there has to be some digging into the film before your mind really gets the full picture. I think this gives the film so much more credit. (Another film that falls into this category is another British film called “Lady in the Van“, which I would also recommend watching. I do think out of the two movies, Lady in the Van was a better film, though Love & Friendship was a bit more focused.)
I cannot say that this film is for everyone; it may turn off some viewers simply by just how obnoxious Kate Beckinsale’s character becomes. However, I strongly affirm that the array of good performances and the witty humor make this film greatly watchable if not a bit exhausting. If you enjoy the wit and the subtlety of British films, then see this movie as soon as possible, because I doubt it will remain in theaters much longer, and I’m giving this movie a 7 out of 10.