Cousin Bette

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +3

Content: -2

The usually lovely Jessica Lange plays an unlovely and unlovable spinster, Cousin Bette. It's France in 1846, and spinsters are second class citizens. Bette's beautiful cousin who married wealthy Hector (Hugh Laurie) and had two children, has just died, and Hector wants Bette to become his housekeeper, not his wife. Insulted, Bette refuses his offer and retreats to her dismal flat in a dismal part of town, earning meager wages as a seamstress for a burlesque theater. Lonely Bette befriends Wenceslas, a young, handsome starving artist (Aden Young) who lives above her. She falsely confides in Hector's teenage daughter, Hortense (Kelly McDonald), that the artist is her lover. Selfish Hortense deliberately schemes to meet Wenceslas without Bette knowing it and steals him from her. Now Bette's hurt and anger erupts into a wicked plan to destroy Hector, Hortense, Wenceslas and her only friend Jenny (Elizabeth Shue), a burlesque dancer and courtesan. Watching Bette manipulate the greedy, deceitful characters like a master puppeteer makes for a clever, amusing movie based on Honore de Balzac's novel. You might say that all of Bette's targets of revenge deserve what they get. Hector has spent his family's fortune womanizing and gambling; Lazy Wenceslas takes advantage of Bette and deceives Hortense and Hector; and Jenny has no qualms about having simultaneous affairs with Hector, Wenceslas and Hector's best friend. Bette finally finds fulfillment in her new-found talent for controling others.

Along with devilish behavior is some very sleazy sexual content. While Hector is embracing Jenny, his best friend is hiding under her skirts, implying a bizarre sex act. Later Jenny and the artist are shown having sex with chocolate smeared over their nude bodies. In the burlesque theater Jenny is shown performing several times with her bare buttocks exposed. In a duel, Hector is shot in the leg and a bullet grazes his rival's head, and later a man is shot point blank in the chest. Foul language is limited to a few crudities and profanities and one obscenity. COUSIN BETTE's dark look at human nature, disrespect for decency and its attitude that revenge, when justified, is indeed sweet, all justify its R rating.

Preview Reviewer: Mary Draughon
Fox Searchlight Pictures, 10201 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Few (3) times - Mild 1, Moderate 2

Obscene Language: Once (s-word)

Profanity: Few (3) times - Regular 1 (God's sake), Exclamatory 2

Violence: Few times - Moderate (duel ends with shot in leg; man slapped; fatal shot in chest)

Sex: Once (couple smeared with chocolate with male rear nudity and brief breast nudity); implied once (unconventional sex, no nudity)

Nudity: Several times (breast female nudity, rear female nudity several times, male rear nudity once); near nudity (low-cut dresses)

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Several times (passionate kissing; middle-aged man offers young woman money to see her nude; bawdy dancing and singing in burlesque hall)

Drugs: Few times (alcoholic drinks, man inhales dark powder, smoking)

Other: Theme of revenge

Running Time: 108 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.