Love & Friendship

Rated 4.0

To hell with Terrence Malick’s increasingly masturbatory career second act; I’m a lot more excited about Whit Stillman 2.0. After a decade-plus absence from features, the Metropolitan director returned in 2012 with the likable Greta Gerwig vehicle Damsels in Distress, and now delivers the delightful Love & Friendship, arguably his most accomplished and assured movie to date. An adaptation of Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan, and Stillman’s first foray into noncontemporary storytelling, Love & Friendship stars Kate Beckinsale as a resourceful and manipulative widow who straddles and connives her way through bourgeois society. There is an almost perfect overlap between the sensibilities of Stillman and Austen, to the point that all of Stillman’s previous New York-based films now feel like reverse-engineered Austen adaptations. Beckinsale is excellent as the pragmatically lusty Lady Susan, wrapping every blockhead man around her finger and coiling her tongue through the deadpan barbs of Stillman’s script. D.B.