Jane Austen is famous for six novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion. Most people know this. Rather less know that she wrote an absurd tale called Love and Freindship (sic) in her teens, and another novella, Lady Susan. This movie is particularly confusingly titled, as it brings the novella Lady Susan to the screen. Lady Susan stands out as the only actively evil (or at least exceptionally unpleasant) protagonist that Austen ever wrote.
I was very pleased to hear that Kate Beckinsale had been chosen for the lead role: before she spent 15 years in leather tights as a vampire who hunted werewolves, she was a very good classical actress. I was afraid the world had forgotten that. Not that this movie particularly stretched her skills: all she has to do is work her way between deceitful and acidic. Nevertheless, it's nice to see her back in Austen.
I should admit up front that I'm not fond of movies based on nasty people doing nasty things, even when (or maybe because) it's a comedy (which isn't exactly how Austen wrote it). So I didn't particularly enjoy this, although I can mostly see it's good qualities. Lady Susan is a widower and a horribly manipulative person, flirting with (and occasionally sleeping with) any man she chooses to the detriment of several families - not least the family of her dead husband, whose home Lady Susan retreats to after poisoning the nest by carrying on in with two different men at the last place she was visiting. She then proceeds to enchant the handsome young son of the family.
I didn't much like it, but fans of Austen should definitely consider ignoring my opinion and giving it a watch (the critics absolutely loved it).