The film was written and directed by Whit Stillman. Set in the 1790s, the background to the film is lavish and the costumes fascinating. Lady Susan is clothed in black in the first scene, as befits a widow, but gradually her dress lightens as her prospects improve. She has to find a husband for herself, and her daughter, to secure their economic security, and this she does extremely well.
Lady Susan is played by Kate Beckinsale. Beautiful, and extremely attractive to men, she is a thoroughly modern woman. She knows what she wants, and she determines to achieve her goals, regardless of social mores. Beckinsale is perfect in this part, and creates a complex character with whom I could feel sympathy. I am now a fan of Kate Beckinsale.
The other actors were also perfect in their parts. As a fan of Stephen Fry, I particularly enjoyed his performance. A world was created that seemed real, and the interaction between the characters showed them as real people. The film is too short, as it left me feeling I wanted to see more of the story. Perfect for a sequel.
My one criticism would be that everyone. especially Lady Susan, spoke in accents difficult to interpret, and too quickly. This made it a little challenging to follow the storyline. Realism in acting is good, but can be carried too far. Perhaps it would be better if the actors and director took into consideration the needs of their international audience.
Whit Stillman is brilliant in his interpretation of the work of Jane Austen. He captures the essence of her perceptive insights into human nature. He understands the economic pressures on the women of her time that forced them into marriage. A lucky few women, married men who didn't exert the power over their wives that this economic dependence gave them. Those not so fortunate had to accept that they had to be sexually faithful, while their husbands could pursue their biological urges. Lady Susan was a woman outside her times, and Stillman depicts her accurately.
I enjoyed this film and now want to see it again.