Set in the opulent drawing rooms of eighteenth-century English society, Love & Friendship focuses on the machinations of a beautiful widow, Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), who, while waiting for social chatter about a personal indiscretion to pass, takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ estate. While there, the intelligent, flirtatious, and amusingly egotistical Lady Vernon is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica – and herself as well, naturally. Sh enlists the assistance of her old friend Alicia (Chloe Sevigny), but two particularly handsome suitors complicate her orchestrations. Adapting Jane Austen’s unpublished early novella Lady Susan, Whit Stillman returned to the Sundance Film Festival (where hisMetropolitan premiered in 1990) in top form with his latest comedy of manners. With his love of fine clothes and finer diction, Stillman proves an unsurprisingly intuitive fit for Austen, but he also knows just how to give her pointed social satire an extra stab of wink-wink postmodern drollery without breaking the spell. As Lady Susan, Beckinsale is the most irresistibly devious of Austen protagonists: praise of the highest order, considering the competition. Love & Friendship is a rare – and rarefied – treat.