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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
and just about everyone else. Who knew that deception, treachery, and revenge could be this tedious.
Although the period production design is reasonable, this film suffers from lax direction and the presence of an `international cast', with the resultant mix of accents and acting styles. Of the better known thespians, Geraldine Chaplin again demonstrates that she inherited her mother's looks but not her father's talent, whereas the best that can be said of Americans Elizabeth Shue and Jessica Lange is that they are woefully miscast.
As a courtesan, Ms. Shue exhibits about as much ability to drive men to ruin as a stale baguette, while a rosy-cheeked, unwrinkled Ms. Lange delivers a studied, monotone performance relieved only by occasional lapses into a southern accent.
This Gallic debacle left this reviewer wondering if the final musical sequence was indicative of a certain regard for the audience, and firmly convinced that bringing French literature to the screen is best left to the French.
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