Zach a.m.’s review published on Letterboxd:
I don't read much. I am not a huge Jane Austen fan. I am not overly familiar with her oeuvre, or any adaptations of her work.
Director Whit Stillman is also an anomaly to me. I hear his name and conjure up images of a young Don Draper on a farm. I've never seen one of his movies.
And I can't even say I like Kate Beckinsale.
This may not have placed me completely outside of my comfort zone but I am for sure rubbing up against the perimeter. But none of that really seemed to matter at all when I sat down to watch this.
Absolutely refreshing experience. It took me some time to find my groove with this film, language is tricky for me to conquer but once I settled in I had a blast. It's a gentle-natured yet wicked piece of comedy as Beckinsale's Lady Susan schemes her way through the 90-minute runtime, running laps around her sister in-law, daughter, and potential suitors. And she does it with such ease and grace like she's hardly working at all yet every word she uses feels like it's delivered with some intentional machination intent. The way she addresses the family upon arrival as they're frozen stone-cold to see her is the epitome of passive-aggression, with the emphasise on passive. "What charming expressions" with the warmest of inflections, it's just wonderful.
I am enamoured with her character. And the rest of the movie, too. The words gentle or good-natured come to mind. Despite the scheming and the manipulation there's a really light-hearted casualness to everything, even on the production side. The costumes look splendid but not overly ostentatious (with the exception of Chloë Sevigny's... what I can only describe as a heathing bosom), the sets are small and everything is shot sort of tight, and the music flows across nicely with the occasional Barry Lyndon-esque flourish or pomposity. It's a period piece but not really concerned with showing anything off other than the script - which is the shinning light at the centre of this stage.
The script is really tight and really clever and there isn't a wasted line of dialogue in the entire movie. From start to finish, it doesn't let up. And I've heard Stillman compared to Noah Baumbach before, and I don't know how accurate that is, but there are moments here that really brought me back to Mistress America, and it's not quite farce but it's this exquisite silliness - here there is no better example of that than in the character of Sir James Martin. This stumbling, rambling Colin Firth-looking "blockhead" is the highlight of the whole damn movie, he fucking steals it. Nothing could prepare me for him and I wonder if anything the rest of the year will come close.