No one will ever accuse The Story of Esther Costello of being an immortal drama, but it's the kind of semi-serious melodrama that's a ball to watch on a rainy afternoon. Costello has been compared (rather unfavorably) with The Miracle Worker, and though they both deal with severely handicapped young women, Costello exists not so much to tell a story of human drama as to give Hollywood a new peg on which to hang a glossy story about two rich people and the personal turmoil they endure because of each other. In other words, forget about depth and settle in for a deliciously shallow love-and-hate story, with some heaping helping of betrayal ladled on top. Not that Charles F. Kaufman's screenplay is totally exploitative: the picture definitely is concerned about the difficulties of the handicapped, and some of the individual scenes make considerable impact. But the story wanders in and out of credibility, crossing far over the line toward the end when the title character's ravishment miraculously brings about a cure. Costello is lucky to have Joan Crawford on hand, bringing her inimitable star quality to bear beautifully and holding the film together with the force of her personality; it's not Oscar caliber acting, but it's exactly what is called for and works wonderfully well. Rossano Brazzi also adds screen chemistry to the proceedings, and in the title role, young Heather Seara is quite impressive.
by Craig Butler review