The new release in theaters, Cousin Bette, is set in the pre-revolutionary
war era of Paris. It stars Jessica Lange as Bette, and Elisabeth Shue.
Bette has always been the downtrodden one in the family. She gets the
raw end of the deal with all the manual labor while her cousin is constantly
pampered. The reason their family made such a difference in the two young
girls is because Bette was plain-looking and her cousin was beautiful.
At the outset of the movie, Bette's cousin is dying. She asks Bette to
look after her family, especially her unwed daughter. Wrought with jealousy,
Bette decides the time has come to make them pay for the unfair treatment
she has endured all her life.
The first step in her plan is to take in a starving artist, and tell
her unwed cousin that this man is her beau. By doing this, she knows that,
like her mother, the young girl will desire anything or anyone that belongs
to Bette, and will try to steal him away.
Elisabeth Shue plays the mistress of Bette's cousin's widow. Bette proceeds
to introduce the mistress to the richest man in Paris, who "steals"
the mistress away from the man, leaving him alone and $75,000 in debt.
Next in her grand scheme, Bette gives him the name of a man who will
loan him the $75,000. However, the person turned out to be a loan shark
who charges 25 percent interest. Unable to pay, the young man is forced
to leave Paris with his wife and child.
Meanwhile, Bette's cousin marries the artist, who has been given a $200,000
grant from the government to make a statue. The statue turns out to be awful
and he is told the money must be repaid. Deviously, Bette tells him to go
to the mistress for the money, knowing that a love affair will begin.
Bette then arranges for her dead cousin's widow, who still loves his
mistress, and the artist's wife to find the two lovers together. Then she
convinces the artist's wife to use force to take her husband back. Accidentally,
the artist is shot by his wife, and she is arrested for murder.
I ended up feeling sorry for this family. This became a classic case
of misplaced anger. Bette punished her cousin's children, but they were
not the ones who ruined her life. Cousin Bette is a mean, vindictive spinster.
This movie is playing at the Terrace Theatre and is rated 'R'.
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