"Betty" is a campy comedy about a lovably neurotic woman, a decade before Liz Lemon swept us off our feet in "30 Rock". Much like 30 Rock, this movie is peppered with goofy humor sometimes almost bordering on "Airplane!"-esque absurdity or at least SNL ridiculousness. But at the same time it's a quiet movie with plenty of room to breathe, and a lot of it feels like watching a stage production of a woman delivering a series of bizarre monologues.
For example, one of my favorite scenes is when Betty rants to her therapist about a chicken sandwich. It goes on for 5 minutes or so, almost a painfully long time, but call me crazy, I loved it. And I don't even like chicken.
Then we may cut to an inexplicably bizarre scene like Betty filling a swimming pool full of Fruit Loops just so she can clean it all out 30 seconds later. I got a kick out of that, too, and I can't even swim.
The whole movie is full of seemingly nonsensical moments like that which may or may not apply to your life (probably not, unless you're so rich and/or bored that you can afford to buy 100 lbs of Fruit Loops). But at the same time, through Betty's (Cheryl Pollack's) endearingly dorky performance, you feel like you could be watching your own life. There are lots of simple visual gags, like Betty passively-aggressively fighting with her pool chair, reminding us about the catastrophe of everyday annoyances.
Brief but fun performances by Udo Kier (who played numerous Draculas in the 70s) as the confused realtor, Holland Taylor (who played Ruth on the 80s sitcom "Bosom Buddies" or more recently Evelyn Harper on "Two and a Half Men") as the psychotic therapist, and my absolute favorite: Ron Perlman (Hellboy!) as a grandfatherly door-to-door salesman add spice to this satirical (but not sarcastic) comedy. I should also add that there are a lot of "old school cinema inside jokes" like, for example, the way Betty looks like Jackie O's twin in the opening scenes, her melodramatic way of talking to strangers, and a few choice lines like "They like me, they really like me!"
I purposely didn't talk about the plot until now because the plot isn't really central to the film. The movie is more about characterizations, particularly Betty's. Betty plays a famous movie star who has a nervous breakdown and decides to hide out in Palm Desert, trying to reconnect with the "real world" which she has been living so high above for so long. The funny thing is that the "real world" people she ends up meeting are as bizarre as anything out of a comic strip. And so this becomes almost like a weird contemporary "Alice in Wonderland" tale.
"Betty" has its moments of brilliance. It also has a few moments which didn't work so well for me, possibly because it may have pushed the absurdity a little too far towards the end. But overall I had a lot of fun watching this movie.
By the way, it's basically clean & family-friendly (aside from Holland Taylor's amusingly foul-mouthed performance as the psycho therapist), nothing violent or shocking, and although Cheryl Pollack plays a Hollywoodite walking around in a bikini top & high heels for a lot of the film, there's no nudity or gratuitous sex scenes. All of this points to the idea that this film is intended to pure fun, a sort of parody of life itself.
If you enjoy neurotic characters like Liz Lemon, Ally McBeal or most of the comedic roles Sandra Bullock plays, I think you'll get a kick out of "Betty".
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