Anytime I see a period piece, I think about how much work it must be to get the right costumes, affect the right mannerisms and film things in a way so that the modern anachronisms don’t sneak onscreen. Hard f*****g work. That said, no genre can be more rife with the entrails of boredom as a period piece, so it is with both respect and dread that I approach it. In the case of the short film The Mischievous Case of Cordelia Botkin, I think the respect was warranted and the dread ill-advised.
The short, set in Victorian era San Francisco, tells the tale, surprise surprise, of one Cordelia Botkin (Rajia Baroudi), an unhappily married woman finding much happiness in her affair with an equally unhappily married man, John Dunning (Daniel Kash). That is, until he gives her the news that his wife and family is moving out of town, and that he’s going with them, effectively breaking off their relationship. Cordelia doesn’t take the news too well, and decides to act on her love for John by snuffing out her rival.
Somehow the short film manages to take an act of murder and not only make it entertaining, but also puts you under enough of a spell to actually like and root for Cordelia in her efforts. Reading the more black-and-white tale of Cordelia Botkin after the fact, as this short is based on an infamous true story, I got a far more disturbing personal vision of her character than I did from watching the film, which made me appreciate the short all the more. I’m not saying murder is okay, I’m saying the exact opposite, but at least Cordelia had the gumption to do something in the face of losing the man she loved. If anything, I wish her drastic actions were for the arm of someone more deserving (because that John Dunning is one Hell of a weak-willed sad sack).
The Mischievous Case of Cordelia Botkin is a wonderful short film experience that manages to make murder almost whimsical while also serving up a nice cautionary tale about what people might do for, and in the name of, love. Simply put, if you don’t know where a box of chocolates is coming from, or who sent it, DON’T EAT IT! You can trust my advice; I am a fat man, so I understand the urge.
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