Forced to live on the kindness of relations and friends, an impoverished widow (Kate Beckinsale) in 1790s England schemes, plots and manipulates her way into a profitable marriage. Based on an unfinished book by Jane Austen and directed by Whit Stillman (LAST DAYS OF DISCO). It may be from the pen of Jane Austen but if you're expecting a stuffy BBC Masterpiece Theater presentation or a tasteful Merchant Ivory production, you'll be surprised. Stillman tweaks the conventions of these period films and it has more in common with, say, TOM JONES (1963) than A ROOM WITH A VIEW. Smart and witty but with an acidic bite, the film is anchored by a terrific lead performance by Kate Beckinsale. Her Lady Susan is an amoral, self centered schemer but so assured in her drive that you can't help but like her. The rest of the ensemble are impeccable though I found Tom Bennett's doofus more annoying than amusing though my audience seemed to adore him. Even if costume period films aren't your cup of tea, I think you'll find much to savor. With Chloe Sevigny, Stephen Fry, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Morfydd Clark, James Fleet and Jemma Redgrave.