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Her husband cheated with his wife,
The ruiners of married life,
So Larry and Maria planned
To let them suffer doubt firsthand.

A walk and talk or two or three
Let friendship flourish fluently,
And is not romance at its best
When friendship fully has progressed?

A marriage undermined by lies
Will likely lead to compromise,
But truer love is worth a chance
To lose the doubt and share a dance.

MPAA rating: PG-13

This is a film my VC adores so I couldn’t put it off any longer. Seriously, it’s in her top 50, and while I’m not as much of a fan, I do agree that Joel Schumacher’s Cousins deserves more recognition. Based on the 1975 French film Cousin Cousine, this growing romance seems to both condemn and embrace marital infidelity while balancing the heavy stuff with playful interactions among an extended Polish-French family.

At Phil and Edie Kozinski’s middle-aged wedding, all manner of quirky relatives pour in, from a pair of overly critical slobs to an old lady who thinks Edie killed her last husband by feeding him too much butter. Among the extended kith are two couples, Larry and Tish (Ted Danson and Sean Young) and Tom and Maria (William Peterson and Isabella Rossellini). Larry and Maria happen to meet while looking for their respective spouses, and what could have remained familial rapport is strengthened by the mutual belief that their spouses are cheating with each other. Hoping to “get back” at Tish and Tom, Larry and Maria take walks, break fish, and revel in the knowledge that their spouses must be seething with jealousy. Nothing happens, but that’s not to say they don’t want it to. When their marriages are further strained, propriety finally takes a back seat, and a romance born from conversation and a personal connection is able to blossom.

Marriage is very much at the forefront. The progression of Larry and Maria’s relationship plays out against the diverse spectrum of their large family, from wedding to funeral to wedding. Charming subplots provide detached vignettes that still hold an air of romance, such as Larry’s father (Lloyd Bridges) in search of love with the help of his weird grandson (Keith Coogan). Ultimately, though, Larry and Maria must face the fact that they love each other and weigh that love against the strained marriages they already have.

My VC finds this film entirely romantic and enjoys the different kinds of marriages depicted, from the wedded bliss of the older couples to Larry and Tish, who share a bohemian spirit, to Tom and Maria, whose uneasy awareness of infidelity doesn’t foster the most loving home for their daughter. My VC also loves the lesson that you’re never too old to fall in love and get married, and she admires the fact that the protagonists actually care enough about their marriage to hesitate, unlike their unfaithful spouses.

As much as I wanted to love, love, love Cousins as much as my VC, it never rose above charming in my estimation. Thanks to a clever script and their unmistakable chemistry, Danson and Rossellini do make an appealing couple, and I had no problem with their initial plan against their unfaithful spouses. It all seemed rather innocent at first, but as much as I believed they were better off with each other, it’s hard for me to fully agree with cheating on cheaters, especially when their marriages might have stabilized without the added doubt. Even so, in the end, this is a film in which we recognize who is meant for whom, and we might as well enjoy watching the characters figure it out. If you don’t focus too hard on the failed marriages, the successful romances will leave you smiling.

Best line: (Aunt Sofia, who has been talking with Larry’s strange son Mitch throughout the film) “You still want to kill people?”   (Mitch) “Nah, they’re too stupid.”

Rank: List Runner-Up

© 2015 S. G. Liput

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