Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cousin Bette


Dir: Des McAnuff (The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle)

Poor adaptation of a novel by Balzac (steady now!). Jessica Lange is the spinster younger sister of a dead socialite. The family, it turns out, is less well off than they seem. There is some sort of entanglement among a variety of mistresses, attempts to marry people off, and sexual indiscretions that I am sure made lots of sense in the novel. But it is clear from the get go that this film team is not up to the challenge of making a period parlor comedy, with the labrynthine relationships between characters, come off in two hours. A really sloppy job of editing and writing throughout, with great leaps in the story that have no explanation whatsoever.

Hugh Laurie is one of my favorite comedic actors (haven't seen House yet though). He is lovestruck with Elisabeth Shue, another of my favorites but for reasons that have nothing to do with her acting, which has and always will be dreadful (Palmetto, shudder). Bob Hoskins is here too, so with Lange this was not the fault of second rate talent in front of the camera. Throughout the film, I found myself questioning who was scheming and who sincere love, a tragic flaw for a story that relies on our witty understanding that the characters are being manipulated farcically. Aden Young is a starving artist with no work ethic that everyone seems to fall in love with for no reason. But he also is supposed to be seducing everyone to destroy them, or maybe he is double crossing the women who control him? I don't know, and I suspect neither do the writer or director.

The costumes are pretty. The music is really lovely, I mean that. A fantastic score. But as a droll tale of sexual manners, this is pretty confusing stuff. Stick with Balzac (stop that snickering).