(director/writer: Whit Stillman; screenwriter: based on the novella Lady Susan by Jane Austen; cinematographer: Richard van Oosterhout; editor: Sophie Corra; music: Benjamin Esdraffo; cast: Kate Beckinsale (Lady Susan Vernon), Morfydd Clark (Frederica Vernon), Xavier Samuel (Reginald DeCourcy), Emma Greenwell (Catherine DeCourcy Vernon), Tom Bennett (Sir James Martin), Chloe Sevigny (Alicia Johnson), James Fleet (Sir Reginald DeCourcy), Jemma Redgrave (DeCourcy DeCourcy), Justin Edwards (Charles Vernon), Sophie Radermacher (Miss Maria Manwaring), Jenn Murray (Lady Lucy Manwaring ), Stephen Fry (Mr. Johnson); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Whit Stillman, Katie Holly, Lauranne Bourrachot; Westerly Films; 2016-UK)

“An engaging spicy rom/com screen adaptation of Lady Susan, Jane Austen’s epistolary novel published posthumously in 1871.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Manhattan-based auteur Whit Stillman (“Metropolitan”/”Last Days of Disco”) presents an engaging spicy rom/com screen adaptation of Lady Susan, Jane Austen’s epistolary novel published posthumously in 1871.

The novel was written in the form of letters, which are filmed as dramatic acts. She wrote the social satire when 20 in 1794. Stillman keeps the dialogue pungent and the story mired in the period of the 18th century.Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) is a beautiful seductive widow with impeccable taste and a head for scheming. Her base of operation is at the Churchill estate owned by her wealthy brother-in-law Charles Vernon (Justin Edwards), whose wife Catherine (Emma Greenwell) is suspicious of her opportuntistic plans.

Catherine’s younger brother, Reginald De Courcy (Xavier Samuel), finds the widow irresistible, which troubles Catherine. Susan schemes to marry the wealthy handsome catch. Things change when Susan’s depressed teenage daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark), suddenly shows up at Churchill, having left school for some unknown reason. Aware of the attraction between Reggie and her guileless daughter, Susan quickly influences Frederica to marry the idiotic but wealthy Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett) despite her resistance.Lady Susan’s allies with Alicia Johnson (Chloe Sevigny), the American wife of a wealthy Brit (Stephen Fry), in her scheme to land Reggie. Alicia’s hubby can’t prevent his wife from aiding the flirty Susan to rope Reggie in, despite his severe warnings to send her back to Connecticut. Beckinsale gives an imposing performance.

The supporting cast are all terrific, with special kudos for a very funny Tom Bennett and a very amiable Morfydd Clark.