The Lesser Half avers — amiably — that by nodding off, pretty much smack in the middle, I may have missed too much of Whit Stillman’s new pitcher to comment on it convincingly.

Convincingly? Who the hell is asking for that? Since these days most pitchers run to about four hours, while a half-decent nap takes just one, I can usually grab a few winks without missing anything important, such as car-chases (if there are any of those) or acting (if there’s any of that). Barely ninety minutes long, Love & Friendship is as brief as they come these days. Admittedly, then, I witnessed perhaps no more than a third in total. But it’s not as though I wasn’t present for some of it. Would anyone seriously object to my reviewing, say, the first nineteen minutes, as well as the final eleven?

Or I could confine myself to a critique of the title alone. Perplexingly stolen from Austen’s juvenilia (from a piece written when, like all teenagers through the ages, young Jane was still struggling with English orthography*), Love & Friendship replaces the later, more mature novella’s actual title: Lady Susan. But whatever. My hunch is that Mr Stillman must really have coveted that old-timey ampersand, a feature common to many of the great author’s successes at the box office.

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Beckinsale regards Tom Bennett

As a fan of both Metropolitan and Barcelona — two early Stillman projects, of which the former remains, arguably, the finest of all our cinematic Jane Austens — I felt quite let down by the mincing period-ism of his latest effort. That is, apart from the performance of Tom Bennett, whose gormless, aspirational Charles Vernon made those opening minutes — along with several at the end — well worth the ticket price.

Then again, who’s to say what did or did not occur amid the theta waves of my dreamless sleep? Perhaps no less than exactly what this pitcher needed: Colin Firth, tousled and drenched, emerging  from “a stream of some natural importance.”

*Her very youthful story was called Love & Freindship [sic], with the and e transposed. And was there an ampersand in the original? The word “and” may have been written out. I forget.