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.
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A somewhat sanitised version of the Balzac classic which departsdisappointingly from the original story. Jessica Lang is far too pretty aversion of the downtrodden, wizened old hag Bette of the original and soconveys none of her deviousness in the many schemes to avenge herselfagainst her condescending relatives. Missing completely from the film isarch-whore Valerie, a central character of the book's plot, who dies a grimdeath from a disfiguring tropical disease at the conclusion, thus removingan important moral message of the tale. Most of Balzac's other works viz.Madame Bovary, contain one of these.That said, costumes and furniture are fairly faultless which shows Hollywoodhas at least tried to do justice to a great book.
Sometimes it just does not pay to screw with someone's emotions.Not since the wickedly cool performance of Glenn Close in DANGEROUS LIAISONS has there come another so deliciously detached revenger as Cousin Bette.Jessica Lange could not have been a better choice to play the woman whom once scorned will manipulate everything and everybody to achieve her perfect reckoning.Yes,this is a screenplay based out of the Balzac novel COUSIN BETTE which may upset the purists,but as an adaptation,the spirit of Balzac is wickedly and comically captured and I dare say you will ever see a better Bette on screen than Jessica Lange.This film truly has an all-star Academy Award studded cast with Bob Hoskins(MRS.HENDERSON PRESENTS),Elisabeth Shue(LEAVING LAS VEGAS),Hugh Laurie(now Golden Globe winner for HOUSE), Kelly MacDonald (GOSFORD PARK) and Geraldine Chaplin (DR.ZHIVAGO)Excellent companion films would be DANGEROUS LIAISONS and COLONEL CHABERT (also an adaptation from Balzac)
Being a Jessica Lange fan, I'm surprised this film went under the radar until a few days ago. Jessica L. may at first seem somewhat miscast in this move that revolves around her chracter's plot to wreck havoc on those who shabbily treated her because she was an insignificant in their eyes. It's not so much the make-up & dawdy clothes that make the actress' role believable, but Lange herself. She projects a dual characterization. On the surface she is soft & somewhat withdrawn--but just below, a burning tension & sexual frustration.The plot was interesting, reminding me of DANGEROUS LIASONS. What really made the movie above average for me (as well as Jessica L.,of course)were the dark cabaret scenes featuring Elisabeth Shue. I read one review that expressed dissatisfaction in Shue's singing, but I saw it very differently. Here was a woman who in every way lived by her not insignificant charms. It's natural that she would be featured on the public stage more for her beauty than her singing. I thought she was perfect.Shue & Lange worked well together.Why, oh, why do people take comedies so seriously?
This movie is alright if you've got the remote in your hand in order tospeed up the many painfully slow shots of people walking. (Perhaps Icould have appreciated the photography more if the music wasn't sooverbearing throughout).I really like Elisabeth Shue, but her lines were especially unnaturalsounding. You can't make Jessica Lange look plain - it's not possible.But, kudos for trying.Most of the acting was actually fine, but the story line and some ofthe editing choices kept this movie from ever achieving any real sinceof rhythm.
The plot is complicated, too much so to describe in 1,000 words. Let's justsay Cousin Bette is a tale of familial revenge set in 1840s Paris. CousinBette is the spinster aunt of a large wealthy family in the throes ofloosing it all; money, dignity and respect. As they struggle, Bette (Lange)weaves her plots, many of which go astray working unintended consequences.This is a delightful black comedy that I liked very much, more so than mostreviewers and commentators. If you have a predilection for this kind ofmovie, jump right in.
Cousin Bette is a very good 1840's period peice (as I am not a fan usuallyof period peices)where yes a miscast Jessica Lange who is strikinglybeautiful at the age of 48 when she filmed this movie plays a spinster whohas a family of backstabbers who treat her barely above the servants inattitude and her character taking advantage of certain situtions that cometo light that help her reverse her finacinal and living arrangement woes.Idon't like to give spoilers as this movie is a fun " Black Comedy" and togive away too much detail spoils this film for people who haven't had theexperince of watching it. Jessica Lange is great as Cousin Bette yet anolder uglier actress would've played the role more convincingly. But inthatday and age if you were as old as Ms Lange character was an unmarried thenyou were doomed for love as her character portrays, so I guess really sheisn't that miscast. Elisabeth Shue finally has done another good moviesinceLeaving Las Vegas and actually can hold a note suprisingly. Young actorAdenYoung who was just awesome in his first film role in the movie Black Robeis equally as good here as the artist who Cousin Bette loves and uponbeingrejected by the boy who is young to enough to be her son then discards anduses to get ahead and gain revenge on her uncaring family members. BobHoskins is quite funny in this film role as is Hugh Laurie as the familyfather who loves Ms Shue's character Jenny Cadine the courtesan enough toflounder the family fortune. Really great black comedy.**** out of*****
Toby Stephens has a very small supporting role in this film (I'd estimate maybe 5 minutes screen time). He is funny, cute, and overlooked in favor of very inferior actors. Bob Hoskins is surprisingly good as a French aristocrat.
A great film, with wonderful performances from all, especially Lange, whoplays her role so delicately that the viewer is never able to get the sortof hold on Bette that would do injustice to the novel. The most remarkablething about this film however is Elisabeth Shue's singing which is... odd.But this is all in all a brilliant film with a depth of character andstrength of plot (the ending leaves one empty for days) that makes it highlyrewarding.
"Cousin Bette" is a witty and deliciously mean-spirited black comedy. Theoperative term, however, is "mean-spirited," so this film is not for alltastes. Cousin Bette is victimized (at least in her own mind) by herselfish and unfeeling relatives. Based on a Balzac novel, the story followsBette's attempts to find love and to get even with those she believes havewronged her. Things don't ever work out as Cousin Bette plans, but the ladyproves she is adaptable. Jessica Lange, despite her beauty made me believethat she was an unattractive spinster. Bob Hoskins was, as always,excellent, as was Elizabeth Shue, who nearly stole the show. Good stuff. Recommended.
This review is from: Cousin Bette (DVD) The movie is good. At first it's a little slow, but stick with it and it gets better. Besides, it has Jessica Lange in it so you can never go wrong.
Jessica Lange gives one of her strongest performances in this brutally funny revenge story. This period piece has more in common with "Jackie Brown" than it does Merchant-Ivory films. I hope this movie will be rediscovered someday.
This review is from: Cousin Bette (DVD) A marvellously interwoven plan of subtle revenge. Beware how you treat your poor relations.Jessica Lange was a supposedly helpful characterbut so conniving at the same time, a magnificent performance. Also Bob Hoskins and Hugh Laurie were excellent and Elizabeth Shue played her role to perfection.I couldn't warm to Aden Young, something was lacking.
I'm not familiar with Balzac's novel, but I've read a ton of Romanticliterature. And this is one of its classic variations (The virtuous areredeemed). I wouldn't have selected this movie myself (friends did) butI enjoyed it. There's nothing quite so much fun as watching someonewho's been disrespected revenging herself on a crowd, especially afterhow needlessly cruel they've been. Since the playing field will neverroll the arrangement back in Bette's favor, why not just destroyeveryone? It's like a bomb went off when she's done. I thought it wasgreat fun. I'm not a big fan of Lange, but she's fine here. ("Sometimes you don't have a tenth line," he said in his tenth requiredline)
This review is from: Cousin Bette (DVD) I had already seen this movie on cable. It is a dark, funny movie. Good for when you want to sit with the girls and talk through a movie. Gets the gossip going. Fun!
The words 'adapted from a novel by Honore de Balzac' would suggest tomost cinema-goers an example of French heritage cinema, like theexcellent version of his 'Le Colonel Chabert' made with GerardDepardieu in the early nineties. Although Balzac is often claimed bythe French as their greatest novelist, he has not captured theimagination of the Anglo-Saxon reading or cinema-going public in thesame way as some of his compatriots such as Hugo, Verne, Flaubert orDumas. Apart from 'Cousin Bette', I am not aware of any otherEnglish-language feature films based on his works.The story is set in the Paris of the 1840s. Bette Fischer is amiddle-aged spinster who works as a theatrical costumer. She is notwell-off financially and lives in a sparsely-furnished apartment,although she has more elevated social connections; her cousin Adeline,who dies at the beginning of the film, was married to the influentialBaron Hulot. Bette, however, had little love for Adeline, as she wasjealous of her cousin's beauty and of her marriage to a successful man.She falls in love with Count Wenceslas Steinbock, a young Polishsculptor who lives in the same apartment block, but loses hersweetheart to Adeline's pretty young daughter Hortense. Bette's dislikeof the Hulot family now turns to hatred, and she plots her revenge. Sheforms an alliance with Jenny Cadine, an opera singer-cum-courtesan anda former mistress of the Baron, who has given her up in accordance withhis wife's dying wishes. Jenny, with Bette's encouragement, tries toruin the happiness of the young couple by seducing Wenceslas away fromHortense. Those who are familiar with Balzac's novel will realise from the abovesummary that the film does not stick closely to its plot. Adeline, forexample, dies at the very end of the novel, not at the beginning. Thereal villainess of the novel is not Jenny (who plays only a minor part)or even Bette (who is portrayed as pitiable as well as spiteful), butValerie Marneffe, the scheming, hypocritical, gold-digging andthoroughly corrupt middle-class housewife who becomes the mistress ofHulot, Wenceslas and several other men. Valerie does not appear in thefilm at all; nor do Hulot's other mistresses. The film concentrates onthe relationships between Bette, Wenceslas, Hortense and Jenny; Hulot,a major figure in the book, becomes less important in the film. Theending of the film, in particular, seems unsatisfactory. There is aconfused attempt to tie the story of the Hulot family in with therevolution of 1848, an event that had not even taken place when thenovel was written in 1846. This was probably inspired by the standardschool textbook idea that the French Revolution represented a corruptaristocracy getting its just deserts, but this interpretation seems toconfuse the events of 1848 with those of 1789, and it is not one thatis likely to have appealed to the conservative monarchist Balzac. Thereplacement of the constitutional monarchy of the amiable 'Roi Citoyen'Louis-Philippe with the regime of the unscrupulous adventurer NapoleonIII was not the most glorious episode in French history.Like some other reviewers, I felt that some of the roles were miscast.Jessica Lange, even in her late forties, was far too attractive for therole of the dried-up, embittered spinster Bette. (Balzac chose the namebecause of its similarity to the French word 'bete', meaning 'beast').Bette's driving force is sexual jealousy of the beauty of other women,particularly of Adeline and Hortense, but Miss Lange's character is nota woman who would need to feel jealous of anyone. Kelly Macdonald'sHortense seemed too insipid. Hugh Laurie, in his late thirties at thetime the film was made, was far too young for the role of Hulot. Thecharacter envisaged by Balzac was probably in his sixties and thefather of two adult children. (Hortense has an elder brother,Victorin). Laurie, better known in Britain as a comedian than as anactor, plays Hulot as a largely comic figure, whereas in the novel heis a tragic one, a distinguished public servant ruined by his sexualpassions and his financial improvidence. The book forms part of the sequence of novels which Balzac intended asa close examination of French society and to which he gave the title of'La Comedy Humaine'. Despite this title, most of the individual novels,'La Cousine Bette' among them, are deeply serious rather than humorous,but the filmmakers here seem to treat the story as a black comedy. Onthe whole, in fact, this approach works well. The story moves along ata brisk pace, helped on its way by some witty songs. The title of oneof these, 'Love is the Master, You are the Slave', is perhaps the bestencapsulation one could wish for of the film in a single phrase; mostof the characters are enslaved by their sexual desires. Jessica Langemay be physically wrong for the part, but she nevertheless throwsherself into her role with gusto and makes a splendidly hissablepantomime villainess. Elisabeth Shue's singing voice is not reallystrong enough to make her convincing as an opera singer, but she iswell able to convey Jenny's seductive charms. Unlike some, I found nodifficulty with the fact that Bette and Jenny had American accents;both, after all, were originally peasant girls from Alsace-Lorraine(Bette's surname implies that her native language is probably Germanrather than French) and would not have spoken French with the Parisianaccents of the other characters. There are some good performances inminor roles; Toby Stephens makes a suitably dull and priggish Victorin,a man who is the complete antithesis of his father, and Bob Hoskins isin superb form as the greasy businessman Crevel. The name is derivedfrom 'crever', meaning to burst, and Hoskins's Crevel is a manpositively bursting with his own self-importance. The film may takeliberties with Balzac, but on the whole it is an enjoyable one whichworks reasonably well in its own right. 6/10
COUSIN BETTE, based on the novel by Honore de Balzac, stars Jessica Lange in a delicious performance.Elisabeth Fisher (Jessica Lange), known to her relatives as Bette, is a humble seamstress in a burlesque theatre in Paris. She has always been taken for granted by her rich relations, and has never enjoyed the love and affections of an admirer. Bette falls in love with the penniless artist Wenceslas Steinbach (Aden Young) and saves his life when he tries to commit suicide. Excerting a control over him, Bette believes that her feelings of love are mutual. But when Wenceslas falls in love with Bette's pretty young cousin Hortense (Kelly Macdonald), it gives way to a chain of events that will see all of Bette's grasping relations dealt with...Elisabeth Shue plays comely courtesan Jenny Cadine, who becomes a powerful pawn in Bette's plan for revenge.The entire cast is superb. Hugh Laurie, Geraldine Chaplin, Bob Hoskins and Jefferson Mays all turn in excellent well-rounded supporting performances. Elisabeth Shue is an eyeful as the flamboyant burlesque star Jenny; Aden Young a stridant yet naive as Wenceslas, and Kelly Macdonald is great as the selfish, indifferent Hortense.Jessica Lange, quite easily the greatest actress of her generation, adds another amazing role to her canon. This is right up there with Frances Farmer and Blanche DuBois.An must-see. This film is a black revenge comedy-drama with a twist!
This review is from: Cousin Bette (DVD) I love historical movies and thiis one is great as far as costume clothing, and a plot. Great eye candy.
This movie is fun in that it has Jessica Lange (undoubtedly one of the bestactresses ever to live)playing a spinstress whose life is fairly emptyuntilshe rescues a poor ugly man who is a bit younger than she. In her world,people turn on her without a second thought...it's quite the moralitytale...she merely leads them by their own will to their doom. Sweetly.
Jessica Lange has never been scarier than here in this adaptation of Balzac's revenge novel. This is one of those stories, like "I, Claudius", where everyone gets their just desserts in a very entertaining way. You get to watch from a god-like perch as Lange plots the destruction of everyone who ever abused her. Elizabeth Shue is delectable as a Parisian courtesan. And britcom fans will delight in Hugh Laurie's performance as the foolish, lecherous head of the family. This is one of those hidden treasures that you have to seek out, but you will be glad you did.
They're both set in France, they both have people behaving badly, and bothhave wise women running the show behind the scenes. Beautiful settings andcostumes. Elisabeth Shue is very good, and I REALLY liked Jessica Lange.Enjoy!