Or Lady Susan, as Jane Austen called her epistolary novella.
To understand the movie you first have to understand that the book, as indicated by the word “epistolary”, is written in the form of letters to and from the various characters. It is left to the reader to use their imagination to fill in the gaps in the narrative. Since movies by nature tend to do our imagining for us, I was curious to see how the story would be translated to screen. It did not disappoint.
We are introduced first to the cast of characters by their names, pictures, and relationships to each other. This is possibly the weakest part of the movie because it is hard to keep everyone straight with such short introductions, but the dialogue later on reminds us of everyone’s role. The humor begins right away in these short clips.
As the plot started I paid close attention to my “watching buddy”, my sister-in-law, who knew absolutely nothing about either the book or movie before coming to the theater. She is also not terribly familiar with Austen or the regency period. But even though she appeared befuddled in a few places, I was relieved to hear her laughing at all the right moments. This was even despite the fact that the movie retained every bit of Austen’s original dialog, which as we know, can be daunting. I take that as a very good sign; as Jane might say, “A very good sign indeed!”
Lady Susan is just devious enough that she makes you doubt yourself while you doubt her, and this was done quite well in the movie. The secondary characters were also well-developed. None of the acting was stellar, but it was all at least competent.
By the time the movie reached its climax, I was hearing open guffaws and laughter from everyone in the theater. It was easy to determine that everyone was laughing because there were only about eight of us present. But still.
Overall I would give this movie four shillings out of five. Brilliant? No. Pride and Prejudice 1995 it isn’t. But Austen fans will enjoy the witty remarks and sharp characterizations that characterize her writing, and non-Austen fans will enjoy the sheer diabolical maneuverings of our anti-heroine. Go see it, and take your favorite non-Austen fan with you.