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Cousins Review

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Two couples go to a family wedding. One half of each couple hooks up during the day; the other two find, over time, that they like each other rather a lot.

★★★★★

One of the biggest grossing foreign-language films of all time was France's Cousin Cousine - the surprise smash of 1975. In this remake, chillingly described as a romantic comedy, the story has been tampered with, updated and thoroughly Americanised.

Ted Danson is an extremely nice fellow with a beautiful wife (Sean Young) who gets chatting to extremely nice Isabella Rossellini as the festivities draw to a close at his uncle's wedding. Rossellini's dreadful husband (William Petersen) has disappeared with Young for a bit of rumpy-pumpy in the BMW, and their partners are left making small talk, refusing to acknowledge what's obviously going on. Events are set in motion and everyone in sight is affected in one way or another as the various infidelities manifest themselves over the coming weeks. Danson and Rossellini become friends then lovers; uncle pegs it; Danson's dad (Lloyd Bridges) turns up to marry uncle's widow; and Young and Petersen take turns to be the person you like least.

All of this may sound remarkably uninspiring, but actually it works right from the first scene. The bastards are just like any bastard you know, no better, no worse; the heroes are wonderful but fallible; the relationships are annoyingly complex, the way they are in life. For over an hour, Cousins promises to be a thoroughly realistic, and therefore unusual, romantic comedy. But then it collapses.

For no apparent reason, and quite without warning, the slush comes in buckets, with rousing romantic music, scenes by log fires, naked dips at dusk in beautiful lakes. Worse, the most believable relationship in the film - between Lloyd Bridges and his teenage grandson - is kicked into touch by a dreadful scene when they boogie together in the kitchen. Well-written, funny and touching, Cousins could and should have been a winner. Young as the hopelessly mixed up but basically well-meaning social climber and Bridges as the no-nonsense dad are especially superb, with Bridges blessed with some cracking lines ('I'd rather have a case of clap than a case of wine'). All it needed was a little gumption on the part of its makers to carry it through to the end, but its collapse is epitomised by the horribly sickly last scene in which Danson, Rossellini and offspring realise their fantasy of owning a restaurant, filmed via a home movie.

A strong first half is thoroughly scuppered by a horribly schmaltzy finish, but the solid performances are still worth a look.