Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Jan 18 2016 02:00PM

We Janeites fondly remember the years 1995-1997, when no fewer than six Austen adaptations hit the big screen in the US. The next few weeks won’t deliver quite such a bumper crop, but with three new Austenesque films on their way, perhaps we can call it a boomlet.

First up is Whit Stillman’s Love and Friendship, an adaptation of Lady Susan, which will premiere on Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival. As far as I know, Lady Susan has never before been adapted for the screen, and this deliciously cynical novella about misbehavior among the landed classes has the makings of a great movie. Fingers crossed! No national release date yet, but I’ll be first in line for tickets when it comes to my town.

And then of course there’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which opens on February 5. As blog readers know, I’m skeptical about this one, but I’m an Austen film completist, so no matter how bad the reviews, I’ll be seeing it and adding the DVD to my collection.

You will recall that I mentioned three Austenesque movies. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but on Saturday night, when luckier souls will be settling in for the Sundance premiere of Love and Friendship, I will probably be curling up with Unleashing Mr. Darcy, a TV version of a truly mediocre Pride and Prejudice update set in the dog-show world.

It’s on the Hallmark channel. I don’t usually watch the Hallmark channel. But like I said – Austen completist.

By Deborah Yaffe, Feb 5 2015 02:00PM

Best Jane Austen news of the week (at least potentially): Shooting is about to start on director Whit Stillman’s movie of Lady Susan, starring Kate Beckinsale as the predatory Lady Susan Vernon, Chloe Sevigny as her poisonous friend Alicia Johnson, and Stephen Fry as Alicia’s hapless older husband.

The project has inexplicably been called Love & Friendship, presumably to mess with the heads of Janeites knowledgeable enough to recognize a juvenilia title when they see it. As far as I’m aware, it’s the first filmed dramatization of Austen’s novella, which itself is sui generis in her oeuvre: her only substantial epistolary story, and the only story whose protagonist is a villain. Seldom, very seldom, do we get a truly brand new Austen project, and I for one am pretty excited.

Whit Stillman is a director I have mixed feelings about. I very much enjoyed Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco and Metropolitan (which some people seem to think is a Mansfield Park update, though I don’t really agree), but I’m still mourning the ninety-nine minutes of my life spent watching the relentlessly whimsical, pretty much intolerable Damsels in Distress.

At his best, Stillman is a great deadpan observer of Species WASP. At his worst, he’s. . . pretty much intolerable. Here’s hoping that Austen brings out his best.

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