Cousin Bette
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Cousin Bette is a 1998 British–American comedy-drama film starring Jessica Lange in the title role and is loosely based on the novel of the same name by the French author Honoré de Balzac.


The wealthy Hulot family gathers at the deathbed of their matron Adeline (Geraldine Chaplin). Adeline s husband, the Baron Hector Hulot (Hugh Laurie) has squandered their fortune on an extravagant string of mistresses and plunged them heavily into debt, a fact which stresses the entire family.

Adeline s Cousin Bette (Jessica Lange), a poor and aging spinster, has spent her life supporting Adeline and her family with little return, and promises the dying Adeline that she will watch over the family, especially Adeline s young, unmarried daughter, Hortense (Kelly Macdonald). Because they were poor as children, their family chose to sacrifice Bette and launch only Adeline into an advantageous marriage due to her greater beauty, a fact which has caused Bette much hardship and regret in life.

Believing the death of Adeline to result in reward at last, Bette is stricken and infuriated when what she believes to be a proposal of marriage and an offer of a true place in the family from Baron Hulot is, in fact, an offer of employment to work as their (unpaid) housekeeper.

Bette returns to her humble apartment and continues her meager living as the costume maker for a Burlesque theater, where she becomes friends with the headliner of the show: the famed courtesan (and Baron Hulot s mistress) Jenny Cadine (Elisabeth Shue), and saves the life of a young and handsome sculptor living in her building—the displaced and impoverished Count Wenceslas Steinbach (Aden Young). Bette dotes on Wenceslas, giving him money, attention, and guidance. Under Bette s controlling eye, the lackadaisical young artist grows more successful and productive. Finding joy in her new companion, Bette tells her niece, Hortense, of her sweetheart Wenceslas and of her happiness.

Hortense, parched from a steady stream of ugly, dull, but wealthy, suitors, is intrigued by her aunt s romantic stories of the handsome artist who happens to be a lord and decides to hunt him down in secret and steal him away from her aunt for an affair. Preferring youth and beauty, the pair marry and Wenceslas accepts a prestigious art commission that would guarantee his major debut—if successful.

Bette views the theft of Wenceslas, whom she loved, as the final betrayal and vows revenge. Enlisting the aid of Jenny, Bette begins to manipulate the Hulot family into succumbing to their baser desires and court their own demises.

One after the other, they fall into ruin under a combination of their family s precarious finances and Bette s subtle guidance. Wenceslas, creatively blocked, is disgraced when it s revealed that he squandered the entire art commission, and produced a barely sculpted block of marble. Jenny Cadine seduces Wenceslas, ruining his own marriage and embroiling him in a triangle with Jenny s other lover, Baron Hulot. Upon learning of the Jenny s affair with Wenceslas, Hulot suffers a debilitating stroke. Hortense, also learning of the infidelity, attempts to murder Jenny, only to kill her husband instead, and finds herself in prison. Victorin, the Baron s son, had been enabling his father s extravagant lifestyle by borrowing huge sums from ruthless loan sharks. With no way to make good on his debts, Victorin flees for his life from loan sharks.

As fighting breaks out in Paris, and the crack of gunfire becomes heard in streets, the Hulot s bleak fate is revealed. With Wenceslas a dead, the Baron crippled, Hortense in prison and Victorin in hiding, the family name is in shamed and impoverished tatters, their once-proud home all but shuttered.

In contrast to the rest of the family, Bette ends the film successful and triumphant. She has amassed a small fortune and is now in control of the Hulot family s infant heir, whom she will raise as her own to be a great artist who returns her love.


  • Jessica Lange – Cousin Bette
  • Elisabeth Shue – Jenny Cadine
  • Kelly Macdonald – Hortense
  • Aden Young – Wenceslas
  • Hugh Laurie – Baron Hector Hulot
  • Bob Hoskins – Cesar Crevel
  • Geraldine Chaplin – Adeline Hulot
  • Toby Jones – Gentleman in Café des Artistes
  • Laura Fraser – Mariette
  • Toby Stephens – Victorin Hulot


Cousin Bette received mixed reviews from critics and it holds a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 22 reviews. Jessica Lange received strong praise for her performance. Stephen Holden of The New York Times referred to the film as it feels as rushed, overstuffed and devoid of texture .

Year 1998
ReleaseDate 1998-06-12
RuntimeMins 108
RuntimeStr 1h 48min
Plot When her sister dies in 1846, Bette moves from the château to Paris to work as a theater seamstress. She helps a handsome, starving artist. When her niece lures him away from her, she plans a devious revenge.
Awards Awards, 1 win & 1 nomination
Directors Des McAnuff
Writers Honoré de Balzac, Lynn Siefert, Susan Tarr
Stars Jessica Lange, Elisabeth Shue, Bob Hoskins
Produced by Philippe Guez,Sarah Radclyffe,Rob Scheidlinger,Lynn Siefert,Susan Tarr,Neris Thomas
Music by Simon Boswell
Cinematography by Andrzej Sekula
Film Editing by Tariq Anwar,Barry Alexander Brown
Casting By Karen Margiotta,Mary Margiotta,Liora Reich
Production Design by Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski
Art Direction by Richard Bridgland,Bertrand Clercq-Roques,Didier Naert
Set Decoration by Robert Le Corre
Costume Design by Gabriella Pescucci
Makeup Department Jean-Charles Bachelier,Catherine Damiani,Linda De Andrea,Romaine Demicas,Marie-Pierre Hattabi,Maureen Hetherington,Desne J. Holland,Paul Huntley,Terry Jarvis,Dorothy J. Pearl,Lisa Pickering,Ivana Primorac,Jenny Shircore,Christine Whitney
Production Management Jean-Jacques Damiani,Josceline Genest,Daniel Szuster,Florent Valentin
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director Eric Bartonio,Barry Alexander Brown,Daisie De Gueltzl-Paradis,Amadou Faye,Frédéric Garson,Judy Minor,Aminta Townshend
Art Department Jean-Claude Alei,Yves Allemand,Herve Babald,Serge Barberousse,Brigitte Baudet,Stephane Beauverger,Frédéric Betaillole,Karen Boetschi,Daniel Borgnon,Philippe Boucheron,George Boudic,Eric Boulain,Eric Bourges,Paul Nicolas Boutier,Philippe Boutillier,Jean Pierre Cartier,Eric Charbeau,Bernard Chedin,Jean-Pierre Chevalier,Bernard Coispel,Giovanni Coppola,Bruno Coucoureux,Daniel Crociati,Jean-Noël Delalande,Jean-Pierre Delettre,Jean-Marc Depond,Joris Dijkmeijer,Christian Dossat,Patrick Dufau,Olivier Dugue,Laurent Duquenne,Richard Fitzgerald,Marc Flouquet,Jean Garat,Emmanuelle Garcia,Vincent Gazier,Samantha Giblin,Jane Gifford,Stephane Girard,Federica Glaretta,Franz Goelzer,Gil Grollier,Isabelle Gruand,Marie-France Harribey,Jean-Francois Huchet,Bernard Husquin,Joel Kieffer,Nathalie Larcher,Remi Laureau,Isabelle Le Cudennec,Gwendal Le Goarnig,Jean-Sebastien Lhersi,Claude Locussol,Delphine Mabed,Catherine Mananes,Magali Manotte,Philippe Margottin,Franz Merckling,Jacques Mizrahi,Georges Mougine,Nour-Eddine Oitahar,Bruno Oliver,Jean-Philippe Petit Robert,Tom Pleydell-Pearce,Amanda Ponsa,Quentin Prévost,Laurence Raphael,Christophe Ribereau-Gayon,Theophile Robert,Bernard Rolland,Patrick Schmitt,Vincent Sentis,Jean Pierre Tonnelier,Marc Valladon,Anne Ventura,Philippe Vermeille,Thomas Vichy,Jean-Loup Walraet,Jean-Pierre Waterlot,Claire Worthington
Sound Department Jérôme Ayasse,Peter Dansie,Geoff Foster,Mathew Harmer,Michael Harris,Dean Humphreys,Luke Jones,Drew Kunin,Keith Mason,Michael Redfern,Jupiter Sen,Derek Trigg,Nick Wollage
Special Effects by Peter Ch. Arnold,Alexander Gunn,Geoff Hood,Graham Longhurst
Visual Effects by Zoe Cain,Alan Church,Sally Clayton,Tim Davies,Paul Round,Bill Scanlon,Peter Talbot,Matthew Twyford,Trevor Young,David Sewell,John Swinnerton
Camera and Electrical Department Pierre Abraham,Thierry Alais,Melissa Byers,François Coignard,Serge Croisy,Zoran Djordjevic,Roland Dondin,Nadia Doueiri,Ziad Doueiri,Nathalie Ermont,Jasper Fforde,Gilles Floquet,David Koskas,Jonathan Lambert,Pascal Lombardo,Jean-Pierre Mas,Philippe Peyraud,John Ward,David Campbell
Animation Department Daniel Borgnon,George Boudic,Bruno Coucoureux,Jean-Pierre Delettre,Gwendal Le Goarnig,Jacques Mizrahi,Jean Pierre Tonnelier
Casting Department Frederic Bourgade,Jean Philippe Bourgade,Nathalie Cheron,Marie-Laure Ducombs,Olivier Thomas,Ghislaine Victor
Costume and Wardrobe Department Flora Brancatella,Anne Brault,Lorianne Chenel,Mario Davignon,Azmin Jaffer,Antoinette Laparade,Marie-Christine Lenormand,Claudette Lilly,Annie Paris
Editorial Department Hermione Byrt,Christophe Combes,Paul Ensby,Nathalie Ermont,Katherine Grimond,Mark Harris,Catherine Jardine,Lucky Smith,Aminta Townshend,Rona Buchanan,Lucy Smith
Location Management Eric Belassen,Pierre D’Hoffelize,Bill Darby,Jean-Daniel Gilvestre,Laurent Grenaud,Astride Kimpflen,Jordane LaFourcade,Christophe Roux,Gilles Saulnier,Florent Valentin
Music Department Becky Bentham,Simon Boswell,Peter Davies,Terry Davies,Pablo de Sarasate,Isobel Griffiths,Alex Heffes,Kevin Lane,Maya Magub,Des McAnuff,Ottokar Novácek,Giovanni Palestrina,Colin Rae,Maggie Rodford,Danny Troob,Nick Wollage,Mark Berrow,Rachel Bolt,Thomas Cavanaugh,Christopher Ross,Matt Walker
Script and Continuity Department Jean Bourne,Marion Peterson
Transportation Department Alain ‘Manu’ Baumgarten,Mike Bleackley,Philippe Dechaloup,Laurent Delpit,Gerry Gore,Johan Graslin,Mike Henley,Rodolphe Lanaro,Bruce Lignerat,Vincent Merienne,Olivier ‘Diabolo’ Paltsou,Jean-Jacques Pauchey,Ray Redrup,Roger Samson,Albert Smith,Bob Valles
Additional Crew Christophe Antonin,Janine Barrientos,Pierre Bimes,Florence Bonichon,Early Boyd,Sarah Briggs,Sabine Chaloupy,Sylvain Chatenoud,Philip Clark,Sophie Coulaud,Shaun Coyne,Stavros Crouzel,Claude Dallet,Marc Dauber,Esther Douglas,Penny Dyer,John Ensby,Mike Fidduch,Lynn Gaskin,Jane Gibson,Isabelle Giese,Simon Giles,Philippe Giraudeau,Bill Godfrey,Katherine Grimond,Pat Harding,Emmanuelle Hardolin,Keith Hayley,Olivia Herrantz,Billy Hinshelwood,Andrew Jack,Wolf Kroeger,Thomas Lascar,Anne-Marie Lefèvre,Rodney Liber,Dixie Linder,Fenella Maguire,Chantal Malrat,David Marsan,Agnes Marty,Sirish Maude,Alison McHale,Patrick Monsec,Sinead O’Keeffe,Kevin O’Shea,Camille Panonacle,Sammy Pasha,Patricia Reid-Douglas,Melissa Rosenbaum,Phil Rymer,Jean-Guy Sirac,Chad Sylvain,Adrian Tanner,Olivier Thomas,Ollie Timberlake,Olivia Trench,Ghislaine Victor,Patrick Vignasse,Dan Walker,Lizzie Would
Thanks Mark Cooper,Bob Crowdey,Robbie Robertson,Louise Seymour,John Spirit,Hugh Whittaker
Genres Comedy, Drama, Romance
Companies Fox Searchlight Pictures
Countries UK, USA
Languages English
ContentRating R
ImDbRating 6.2
ImDbRatingVotes 2720
Keywords songbird,army,soup,deception,360 degree well camera shot