Cousin Bette (1998)

DES McANUFF

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

United Kingdom/USA, 1998.  Fox Searchlight Pictures.  Screenplay by , , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , .  

Critics and audiences unfortunately ignored this delightful though admittedly loose adaptation of Honore de Balzac’s searing novel. Jessica Lange is excellent as Bette, the passed-over old-maid relation of an impoverished society family who decides after having her potential lover Wenceslas () stolen from under her nose by young cousin Hortense (), that she has suffered the last straw. She enlists the help of second-rate burlesque singer Jenny Cadine (Elisabeth Shue) and makes sure her family members all suffer for every mistake they’ve made against her. Cast members Bob Hoskins,  and in a bit part all do very well, with Young less successful as the lover.  It’s plush in every possible way, scored beautifully by Simon Boswell (with Offenbach selections adapted by Danny Troob), and a completely enjoyable experience. Great for those who love a good revenge story.

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