Cousin Bette

Bomb Rating: 

Try selling Hollywood on a period piece set in the actual correctperiod and you'll be laughed out of town faster than Pauly Shore in a Hamlet costume. There's an obvious working rule that unless a historical film can be related to present events, it's not worthy of a Hollywood studio's attention. This rule exists because most Americans can't remember who was president before Clinton or whether it's legal to make a right-hand turn from the left-hand lane. Ask them to watch a film about Paris on the eve of the 1848 Revolution and you're just asking for questions like "Isn't King Louis that lizard in the Budweiser commercials?"

However, fill that movie with sex and treachery and characters with so many different accents they could double as delegates to a U.N. meeting and you've got yourself some movie financing. The treachery in this movie comes from just about everyone, but mostly from Cousin Bette (Jessica Lange), who's been treated like a doormat by her cousin's husband, Hector Hulot (Hugh Laurie) and everybody else in the family. Having never experienced the big "O," Bette goes on a rampage as she tries to muck up the lives of the greedy Hortense (Kelly Macdonald) and her love, Wenceslas (Aden Young), after Wenceslas spurns poor Bette.

Obviously, the key words Hollywood needs to hear when these period pieces come up are "naked courtesans." If you'll remember this spring's "Dangerous Beauty," it was pretty much three acts of naked courtesans. In "Cousin Bette," Elisabeth Shue plays the naked, dancing, singing courtesan and really makes you wish that Link had thrown her over his shoulder and run off to the jungle never to be seen again. Old Link, however, probably saw her as an intellectual inferior and thus just left her alone.

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