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Cousin Bette is a poor and lonely seamstress, who, after the death of her prominent and wealthy sister, tries to ingratiate herself into lives of her brother-in-law, Baron Hulot, and her niece, Hortense Hulot. Failing to do so, she instead finds solace and company in a handsome young sculptor she saves from starvation. But the aspiring artist soon finds love in the arms of another woman, Hortense, leaving Bette a bitter spinster. Bette plots to take revenge on the family who turned her away and stole her only love. With the help of famed courtesan Jenny Cadine she slowly destroys the lives of those who have scorned her.Written by
This could've (and should've) been a devious black comedic romp through the stiff-collared 1800s. If only the editor of the trailer could have a whack at the whole feature.
Jessica Lange is fine in a restrained performance of cousin Bette, a matronly woman who has been in love with her cousin's husband. When her cousin dies, she attempts to take her place and accepts the man's proposal. It's not a marriage proposal, as she believed, but a proposal that she be the children's governess.
This builds the seamy hatefulness in her heart and she begins to manipulate and turn family and community members against each other. All to make someone love her.
The supporting cast offers a mixed bag of performances. Bob Hoskins is winning as the lecherous, but rich old man who seeks the young daughter of Bette's cousin. Elizabeth Shue sometimes seems like she's just wandered off the set of Showgirls. The moody young artist is about as easy to care about as anyone from MTV's the Real World.
The final shot (of Elizabeth Shue in a habit, turning around to expose her butt), although hilarious, just doesn't work. It's just slapped right on the end of the film. Had the narrative structure throughout the script drawn parallels between the show and the show with the show, it might have worked. Introducing this idea only in the final shot simply makes the filmmaking self-conscious, and shows off the uneven creativity of the film itself.
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