Beckinsale excels in a comic tale of Girl Power in the 1790’s.
Set in 1790, Kate Beckinsale plays Lady Susan Vernon, an 18th century cuckoo-like ‘MILF’ (actually, more ‘LILF’, but using the ‘Lady’ term loosely) who with her glamourous demeanor is lusted after by both younger beaus as well as married aristocracy: an example being Lord Manwaring (Lochlann O’Mearáin).
Playing many different ends against the middle, Lady Susan – with the collusion of her American friend Alicia (Chloë Sevigny) – attempts to both find a suitably rich suitor for her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) as well as finding a rich husband for herself to allow her to stay in the manor (sic) to which she has become accustomed. A tale of deception, pregnancy and a marriage of convenience follows: does Lady Susan have to choose between her sexual desires and the rich, stupid and dull Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett, “David Brent: Life on the Road”). Or can she have her cake and eat it?
Based on a Jane Austen short story, “Lady Susan”, this is a delight from beginning to end. However, it does require the attention of the viewer: characters get introduced to you in rapid fire succession, and keeping track of who’s who and how they interrelate is quite a challenge.
But this is a tour de force for Kate “Underworld” Beckinsale who delivers a depth of acting ability that I’ve not seen from her in the past. Her comic timing is just sublime, and while comedies are often overlooked in Awards season, this is a role for which she richly deserves both BAFTA and Oscar recognition.
Stephen Fry joins what is a superb ensemble cast. But outstanding among them is Tom Bennett who is simply hilarious as the nice but dim Sir James. The comic routine about his misunderstanding of “Churchill” (Church – Hill) – a running gag – is sublime and a challenger (with “Was that it t’were so simple”) for the comedy routine of the year.
Directed by Whit Stilman (“The Last Days of Disco”) from his own screenplay, this is one for the more sophisticated viewer: requiring of your full attention, but a treat for the eyes, ears and brain.
Fad Rating: FFFF.