Balzac's novel about jealousy and revenge is set in Paris, in 1846, and concerns Baron Hulot, his daughter, and his deceased wife's cousin, Bette. Bette was always the plain one, the dependable workhorse who lived in the shadow of her prettier, more favored cousin. A lowly theatre seamstress, Bette had hoped to marry the Baron, but now she's pining for the handsome young sculptor who lives in the apartment upstairs.
This movie could have been great with a little more effort; instead, it's soap opera stuff and not very good soap at that. Jessica Lange plays the homely spinster Bette and does a good job, but her American accent destroys any illusion that we are in France. Hugh Laurie ([[ASIN:B001A4VH2U House, M.D.]]) is very likeable as the snobbish and sensuous Baron; too bad he didn't try a French accent, either. Elizabeth Shue plays a singer who captures the hearts of both the Baron and the sculptor; she's really miscast with her Midwestern twang and off-putting crudeness.
The costumes and sets are lavish and the French locations are beautiful, but the script is too convoluted and it isn't sure if it's a comedy or drama. The whole thing lacks any semblance of class, so what should have been a classic is merely forgettable.