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  • Ruth Rendell's novel, A Tree of Hands, was, as most of her work is, brooding, obsessive, and menacing. In Claude Miller's hands, the book has become altogether expatriated. It is now chic, extremely clever, and quite amoral. In short, very French. Briefly, the lives of a successful novelist, bereft of her only child who has just died in a fall, and her mad mother, intersect with those of another mother, a barmaid, who neglects and abuses her child, another little boy, and her taciturn boyfriend. The film cuts briskly back and forth between these two worlds, from the novelist's lovely house in a wealthy Paris suburb, to the bar-resto, hangout for pimps and dealers, where the other woman is employed. It is driven by the mad logic of the novelist's mother and Miller's strength is the insidious way he inveigles the audience into accepting that logic as sane. This is certainly not Rendell, but it is a lot of fun--think a tighter, tauter, altogether more stylish Talented Mr Ripley. The three actresses who play the three mothers jointly won "Best Actress" award at the Montreal Film Festival where the film had its North American premiere.
  • I can now understand why authors feel leery about letting screenwriters adapt a novel. First of all, a full length novel doesn't translate well to the screen. There are too many nuances and too many details, that trying to do them all, will humble the most talented scribe.

    Take the case of the novel in which this film is based. The Tree of Hands by the magnificent British master of suspense, Ruth Rendell. The adaptation has nothing to do with the brilliant narrative she gave us with this novel. If anyone wants to see the best adaptation of a Rendell book, I would recommend to see Claude Chabrol's, "La Ceremonie".

    Not only was that a superior film, but it reveals the essence of the book with little effort.

    The problem with "Alias Betty" is Mr Miller's scenario. He has changed the basic premise of the book into something else. Now, don't get me wrong, it is a better film than some of the mediocrity coming from France lately.

    The big problem is with the character of the mother. Nicole Garcia is out of her range here. Not only that, one never understands what's wrong with her, even though she appears to be schizophrenic. She's a loose cannon up to no good. In the novel she's even more so.

    Betty is ambiguously played by Sandrine Kiberlain, which in a way, suits the character better. She is the only sane person around, even though she is unable to control the mother.

    The minor side plots add to the story, but everything at the end is resolved so easily that one wonders if anything like that is possible in life. The films end in an upbeat note, even though it has nothing to do with the original novel.
  • This quietly compelling entry from French director Claude Miller was strangely marketed to American international cinema enthusiasts as an edge of your seat thriller. Based on the plot synopsis (best-selling novelist loses son to tragic accident, then crazy mother kidnaps "replacement son" for grieving daughter, then kidnapped boy's unpredictable mother and criminal friends seek to get boy back) I thought this was going to be good, and weird. Instead it was great, and weird, but not the kind of weird I was suspecting. Despite plenty of opportunity to do so, Miller never exploits or sensationalizes any of the intertwining tales of Parisian misfits begotten to misfortune both accidental and of their own making. He takes a meditative, and at times cold, though ultimately intimate look at human relations and diverging theories on what it means to be a mother. The "thrills" emerge from the fact that you never know what these interesting characters are going to do next. Miller pulls no punches. There's no pounding music score, fancy camera tricks, or melodramatic theatrics. The performances are as nuanced and natural as the direction. This is a perfect remedy for those seeking respite from Hollywood thrillers.
  • Sometimes the hardest things are so simple. A lost child is surely irreplaceable, isn't it? Well, that depends on how unconventional you're prepared to be. And if you've got no money but you're left looking after your sugar mommy's house, how to make ends meet? Depends how good a con artist you are. And if your mother presents you with a horribly unwanted gift which you can't return without getting you or her into deep, deep trouble? Maybe it will grow on you. Point of view is everything.

    Three people with three problems. But that's just scratching the surface. Mothers, daughters, lovers, husbands, doctors, policemen, smugglers: all of life is here.

    Adapted from Ruth Rendell's book "The Tree Of Hands", this French film presents lives less as part of a tree and more as a spider's web. A little tug here leaves a permanent distortion over there and a gap on the far side. Rarely can cinema have produced such a dramatic, amusing yet tense demonstration of the old saw "No man is an island" (though since most of the central protagonists here are female, the well-meaning but philologically-challenged PC lobby might wish for a slight re-phrasing).

    With all these "Other Stories" around, there are two obvious potential pitfalls. Switch from story to story too quickly and you just confuse your audience; do it too slowly and they might fail to see the connections. Fortunately this film strikes the perfect balance; admittedly it does this by sacrificing a certain depth of character in some cases, but this simply leaves us wishing this were merely the first installment of a trilogy, or rather, chronologically speaking, the second. It would be interesting to find out how these characters got to where they are now, and, given the way that their actions have such dramatic effects on each others' lives, equally interesting to see how that spider's web changes shape in the future. Given that Betty Fisher herself ends the film about to start a completely new life, anything could happen. 8/10.
  • I've just seen this film at the Montreal World Film Festival. The plot is very interesting. A deranged mother and her lack of love for her daughter, the daughter and her absolute love for her son, another mother and her distant love for her own son, and a mother's love for an adopted son. Once Betty loses her child, her deranged mother kidnaps a little boy, telling her daughter that she is keeping the boy for friends who are on vacation. We seem to think that we now know the ending. False. The plot thickens and the film ends as it should : nice, smart, a bit violent but also very funny. A very entertaining film. Luck Mervil is new to acting and did a great job.
  • Set in France, and Paris, but not the usual one. Instead, we see the suburbia, and the projects. A rich woman, famous by a best-seller novel talking about her experience on NY, gets her strange mother at the airport, with her 4-year old son. Strange? A lot! Not crazy, but almost... The boy dies, and strange as she is she tries to mend her daughter's loss with a substitute: she kidnaps a boy of the same age and fit from a woman living on a project, almost a whore. One other story! More will follow, all nicely intertwined. Nice characters, the mothers, all of them, the lovers, all of them...
  • When he's at his best,that is to say when his movies deal with childhood/parenthood ("la classse de neige) or the difficult passage from adolescence to adult age ("la meilleure façon de marcher" ,his towering achievement,and "l'effrontée"),Claude Miller makes really strong films.

    Whereas his adaptation of Patricia Highsmith ("this sweet sickness" aka "dites-lui que je l'aime")was downright disappointing ,his foray into Ruth Rendell is highly successful.First of all,this novel was tailor-made for him:it's a movie about monstrous love,self-love for the grandmother (a never better Nicole Garcia),painful love for the young mother(Kimberlain) ,absence of love for Seigner's character in a story revolving around children.

    Rendell's novels are very complex,involving many characters ,who brush against one another more than they meet ;sometimes,it takes a long time before we know the connection between them.But Miller succeeds brilliantly in his adaptation :he devotes each character a "chapter"

    (hence the title) "Betty's story" "Joseph's story" etc.In Rendell's work ,like in Highsmith's ,the frontier between the "culprits" and the "innocents" is very vague and we never know which ones will get away.

    Minor critic: the actor playing Alex is not very credible because he's not really the looks of a gigolo.
  • (Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon.)

    I am somehow reminded in the storyline of this film of the work of mystery novelist Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley; A Game for the Living, etc.) There is the same slightly genteel sense of mystery, realism and a women's point of view that characterizes Highsmith's work. In this case we have a young woman who loses her four-year-old son and then unexpectedly gains another. This intensely personal experience is set in the strata of contemporary French society. There are people in the projects, there is the underworld of petty criminals and prostitutes, and in contrast there are those who live in country homes beyond the suburbs. It is there that Betty, who is a novelist who has just published a best seller, lives.

    What director Claude Miller has done with this material is to make it dramatic and to tell the story through the medium of film. That may seem obvious, but how many film makers fail to understand the differences in media and end up with too much talk and too little use of the camera to good effect? Miller shows us commonplace scenes of the projects and contrasts them with the fine homes of the well-to-do. He shows us the long limbs and slightly gawky beauty of his star, Sandrine Kiberlain, who plays Betty, and he contrasts her to the fleshy woman of the streets and bars, Carole Novacki (Mathide Seigner) who is the mother of the boy that Betty gains. He also compares and contrasts the craziness of Betty's mother Margot (played with a fine fidelity by Nicole Garcia) with similar, more muted manifestations in Betty herself. There are interiors of luxury and grace, and those of people living temporary lives in high rise block apartments. One gets a sense of France in the twenty-first century adding texture and place to a woman's story that could happen in almost any city in the world.

    The opening scene shows Betty as a little girl on a train with her mother. We are told that her mother is suffering from some compulsive mental illness. We see her stab her daughter in the hand. And then we are fast-forwarded to the present and Betty is with her son Joseph, a scar on her hand, without a husband, going to her house in the countryside. Mother re-enters and we see that she is indeed a mental case, absurdity self-consumed and insensitive. When the boy falls out of a window and dies from the brain damage, Betty is in something close to catatonic shock, but her mother thinks only of her own welfare and seems indifferent to anything else.

    And then comes the twist.

    I won't describe what Margo does now because it is so interesting to see it unfold. At any rate, Betty is forced to come out of her depression and embrace new love and new responsibilities and to indeed commit a most criminal act, that of running away with another's child. And yet somehow we are made to feel--indeed the events of the plot compels us to feel--that she does the right thing in spite of her initial feelings and in spite of what would normally be right. Later on in the film there is another nice twist when the father of the dead boy returns and wants his share of Betty's success and fortune.

    What I think many viewers will appreciate here is that the players look and act like real people, not like people from central casting. Alex Chatrian plays the second little boy and he is a charmer, and beautifully directed by Miller. Kiberlain's laconic and wistful portrayal of a woman with so many choices won her Best Actress awards at the Montreal and Chicago film festivals. She has the kind of beauty that grows on you, yet is not glamorous or glittery, but when she smiles, as she so seldom does in this movie, she lights up the whole screen. And Seigner looks like a common woman, not like a Hollywood star dressed up like a prostitute.

    The men are also interesting and also very real. Luck Mervil, who plays Carole's boyfriend, is restrained like a volcano that one knows will eventually go off; and Stephane Freiss, who plays the father of the dead boy, and Edouard Baer who plays a scheming lower-class gigolo, are two very real varieties of men who prey on women.

    The ending is witty and satisfying, and I can tell that Claude Miller has seen Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956) starring Sterling Hayden since part of this scene recalls the finale in that American film noir with the money flying out of a suitcase during a chase scene at an airport. Or perhaps that bit is from Rendell's novel (which I haven't read) and it is she who recalls Kubrick's film.

    This is a thriller that manages to also be an engaging chick flick, if you will, a commingling of character and story that is in the best tradition of film making, and one of the best films I've seen in months.
  • In the case of Alias Betty, I doubt that life would imitate art...what do I mean by this...well, crimes are committed everyday...murders, thefts, kidnappings...but do we ever feel empathetic with the criminal who commits these acts...in a word, NO! In this foreign film by Claude Miller, he managed to weave several story lines that showed dysfunction to the max. It was a bit difficult to feel any empathy at first with the main character's emotional pain as the character seemed so dispassionate. As the story evolved it was plain to see that the horrific crime committed by the character's mother in hopes of easing her child's pain, or perhaps her own might have been the best solution for all involved. Perhaps the moral of this story is that one doesn't have to be the birth parent to provide a loving and secure home for a child...anyone can be a parent, but not everyone knows how to parent. This film was extremely well done and will leave the viewer with much to think about.
  • Brigitte Fisher (Sandrine Kiberlain) is a successful writer, who adopted the pseudonym of Betty Fischer also as her real name. She is a single mother, and has just moved from New York to France with her son of about four years old to a house in the French suburb. Her mother Margot Fischer (Nicole Garcia) is a deranged woman, who lives in Spain and comes to France for some specific physical and mental exams. Betty has many traumas from her childhood due to the treatment spent by her mother. While talking with Margot in the kitchen, her son falls from the window of his second floor room and after a period in coma in a hospital, the child dies. Betty becomes very depressed and one day her mother arrives at home with a child of approximately same age as her dead grandson. She tells Betty that the boy is the son of a couple friend of her, who had traveled on vacation and asked her to take care of him. Some days later, Betty realizes through the news that her mother had indeed kidnapped the child. However, Betty is very affectionate to the boy. Meanwhile, many parallels stories happen with characters related to Betty and the child, being disclosed to the viewer. With a great screenplay and excellent interpretations, this low budget French movie is excellent. The story has many subplots, alternates drama and mystery, is amoral and not corny, the characters are very well developed and there are no clichés. I watched this movie in an American DVD called `Alias Betty', spoken in French with subtitles in English, and I highly recommended it. My vote is eight.

    Title (Brazil): `Alias Betty' (American DVD)
  • writers_reign13 May 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    I find it both interesting and apposite that some of the reviews here invite comparison with the singular world of Patricia Highsmith. There is indeed at times the same air of unreality, amorality and lawbreakers leading charmed lives. The characters may perhaps best be described as separate strands of seaweed on the edge of the Sargasso sea; dead or at least lifeless to a certain extent but with just enough current to prevent them coalescing but touching, drifting apart and touching again. Someone has already pointed out the 'borrowing' from Kubrick and it IS stretching credibility to have Stephen Freiss transporting so much money in such a beat-up attache case, in fact the entire end sequence relies heavily on coincidence that finds three people - one cop on vacation plus two people fleeing for various but linked reasons -converging in the same place at the same time. Nicole Garcia has emerged as a very fine director (L'Adversaire, Place Vendome) and was an equally fine actress as she shows here in a finely judged performance as what might be describes as a Fruitcake's Fruitcake; she kicks off the film by stabbing her own young (ten or so) daughter in the hand for the flimsiest of reasons; years later she inflicts herself on that same daughter (Sandrine Kiberlain), now 1) adult, 2) successful - a best-selling novel, a large house in a desirable location and 3) a mother herself. She finds it strange that her daughter Betty (still bearing the scar of the knife wound) is not prepared to leave her young son alone in the house and go out to dinner and later, walking in the grounds she discovers the body of the boy, her grandson, let us not forget, who has fallen out of the bedroom window, and views it with a mixture of curiosity and detachment. A distraught and withdrawn Betty is hardly a million laffs so Mom thoughtfully snatches the first approximate lookalike she sees and brings him home like a cat brings home a mouse and blithely announces that two friends have gone on vacation and left their son with her. Betty's not buying this for birdseed and the truth does indeed soon emerge but here we are faced with another touch of the Highsmiths; the mother of the kidnapped boy (Mathilde Seigner) is a hooker in all but name and not really concerned that her son has gone missing which is highly convenient. We're now pursuing one plot strand that explores Betty's gradual bonding with the boy, another centered on Seigner's latest live-in (two months) lover, jealous of her involvement with other men and under suspicion himself, sicking the police onto gigolo Stephen Freiss, who may or may not be the father of the missing boy. Freiss's latest conquest, a mega-rich younger woman has improbably gone on vacation for three months leaving him in charge of her very well-appointed house but little else. He mentions his new situation to Seigner over a coffee and she suggests he sell the house, which he proceeds to do. The cops come to the house but figure he's innocent and leave it at that. One of the cops 'plants' the information that he's going on vacation any minute now. A little more of this and we have a set up where Kiberlain is taking the boy out of the country to start a new life, Freiss is also leaving with a briefcase full of bread and a cop and his family are off on vacation, all at the same time and at the same airport. A woman sitting next to Freiss asks him to mind her small boy whilst she goes to the powder room. He is happy to oblige. Cop sees him with boy. Chase. Briefcase opens. Kiss the money goodbye. Meanwhile Betty's plane takes off. If you can swallow all this you'll love it. The acting is of the highest standard across the board. Garcia, Kiberlain and Seigner are three exceptional talents and they are well supported. In short, a winner.
  • graycat-11 April 2003
    It starts out preposterous but interesting, but quickly becomes only preposterous. The death of a child, then the theft of another are used as bald plot devices. Neither of these events are allowed to resonate sufficiently. (In fact, the film finds all four year old boys interchangeable.) Consequently, it has almost no emotional weight. I gave this film a five. I usually only give a five, or lower, to films I can't finish, but here I wish to discourage any who might be tempted.
  • "Alias Betty", a mediocre French flick which tells of a woman whose son dies and is replaced with a kidnapped kid by her mother and the ramifications of same and examinations of the goings-on in the lives of the people connected to the principals, this flick is a choppy and bland bit of nervous monotony and little more. Combine that with a subtitle a second such that it's difficult to study facial expressions and mannerisms and "Alias Betty" simply isn't worth the effort required. Recommended only for French film enthusiasts, French speakers, and fans of the principals and Miler's work. (C+)
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Deftly, director Claude Miller and his excellent cast turn out a fairly fast-paced set of scenes of the lives of interconnected people faced with a crescendo of escalating trouble. With the English title of "Alias Betty," not an adequate translation from the French, the neighborhoods of Paris witness tragic loss, wistful grasping for hope and ludicrous scheming for ill-gotten gain.

    Sandrine Fisher is "Betty," an author with a very successful (apparently first) novel about her life and marriage during a four-year sojourn in New York City. Returning to a just bought beautiful house in the outer Parisian suburbs, Betty - who makes it clear she's had it with New York's claustrophobic A-list social life - just wants peace and quiet for herself and her young son, Joseph. Immediately arrives her wacky mother, "Margot" (played very well by Nicole Garcia), in town for medical tests that she won't trust doctors to perform in Spain where she and her husband settled.

    Mother-daughter conflict? Sure. Ranging back to Betty's youth? Yep. Familiar? Of course. Sandrine is very believable as a daughter with a vivid and deeply rooted love/hate relationship with mom. Mom may be worried about her health and want extensive medical tests but she's the kind of gal who'll outlive all the people she drives nuts. And she IS nuts too.

    Hardly settled into her home, Betty gets hit with the unspeakable tragedy of an accident claiming her young son's life. If that isn't bad enough (and is anything worse than the loss of a child?), Margot thoughtfully picks up little Jose for Betty as a "replacement" for her lost boy. "Picks up?" Right, as in kidnapping. Jose is the child of a complex and wounded character, "Carole," (Mathilde Seigner), a woman battered as a child and available to as many men in a week as time will allow. Who is Jose's father is a big question mark and dominating concern for some but not for Carole who seems to write off the result of her prostitution as an inconvenience. Carole hovers between likability and repulsiveness. Mathilde Seigner invests her complex role with rapidly shifting emotions.

    Anything more would constitute spoilers. Miller has given a fresh coat to the frequent cinema theme of casual interactions through the interconnectedness of the characters' lives as revealed by sharply etched encounters. Sandrine Kiberlain, a thin woman, whose shoulders carry the weight of the story, delivers a remarkably effective and nuanced performance.

    The resolution is alternately amusing and messy but, overall, believable. A very good film.

    7/10.
  • frankgaipa17 November 2002
    Look at the French title. "Histoire" means story and, as with the English word, implies all story's synonyms. "Histoire," then, can serve as a perhaps gentler "lie." So, "Betty Fisher and Other Stories:" It's a film whose plot is constructed of linked plots, a film in which strangers' stories intersect in ways we've come to think of as Altmanesque. But also, more intriguingly, "Betty Fisher and Other Lies:" Everybody's story involves a lie. Or everybody is a lie.

    I booted up here, just now, fearing I'd only pan the film. The round-robin plot relies on glaring improbabilities and deux ex machina transpositions. It's so strongly plotted, I'd thought to say, it could probably survive one of those English language remakes, and weakly enough drawn in many of its characters that a such a remake might stand a rare chance of bettering it. Nonetheless, make a project of finding the "lie" in each character's "histoire." Which characters tell lies? Which lie to themselves, which to others, which to both? Is any character totally sincere? Is any character pure lie?

    I'm not entirely sure whether it's the case of an actor stranded in an outrageously unbelievable plot, or of an actor acting for all she's worth to realize that plot, but Betty's plain-faced, ever-stricken, ever-lost expression, more than anything else in the film, stays with me. Though one needs a little French to appreciate it, "Alias Betty" may actually be a quite complex translation.
  • This is the second adaptation of a Ruth Rendell book that I have seen. The first was the glossy but creepily empty and tiresome La Ceremonie, in which Claude Chabrol's visceral hatred of the bourgeoisie led him to that bloody climax. Claude Miller has done a satisfying version of The Tree of Hands, with a solid script and some excellent performances. Nicole Garcia as Betty's mother is so compelling, so dangerous in her impulsiveness and inability to see the consequences of her actions. I forgot about the stiff chatelaines she usually plays when I saw her look coolly at the little boy lying on the deck, then up at the open window out of which he'd fallen, then look again at the boy while calculating the benefit to her of the boy's death. Truly frightening.

    Mathilde Seigner as the single mom whose son is getting in the way of her partying, and Edouard Baer as the gigolo who can hardly believe his luck when he sells a house that isn't his (such an engaging thief!) are both good. Sandrine Kiberlain as Betty is stronger than I am used to seeing her--she often plays bleak loners who resort to prostitution as a quick fix (A Vendre; En avoir, ou pas)--here she has inner resources that allow her to combat her crazy mother, her prying ex-husband and the police kid-hunt.

    Miller has a problem that defeats him in the end: how to reconcile the demands of the plot while giving us the fully-realized characters. The end is rushed--I don't blame him for this--and serves to tie up loose ends only. If A and B are shot, then C can make a get away. Still, for the acting, it's one of the best noirs of recent years.
  • LeRoyMarko5 April 2002
    This movie has some very strong parts. It's sometimes very intense, sometimes funny, but never it let you indifferent. You tend to identify to the character. Sandrine Kiberlain is superb as Betty, the best-seller writer that sees her life change, not by her writing but by her mother. It's also a critical eye on today's society.

    Out of 100, I gave it 82. That's *** out of **** stars.

    Seen in Toronto, at the Canada Square Famous Players Cinemas, during the Cine-Franco Festival, on April 4th, 2002.
  • Betty Fisher & Other Stories darts along at a merry old rate, its titular tales moderately interesting in the long run and the film does pass the time in a pleasingly enough manner. In, what certainly feels like, the long run and somewhat immense back catalogue of multi-stranded films interlocking and connecting with a common thematic, Betty Fisher's and her significant "others" is most unquestionably lacking a rawer bite and a more pleasing common thread. Placed into perspective, something like Altman's 1993 film Short Cuts flew past and was a lot longer; Betty Fisher plods along at its own pace and just has you constantly feel 'aware' that numerous tales are going on and that they're going to interlock at some point. Where Altman's opus was a more involving, and felt far less ordained, effort studying the nature of human beings and both mankind's reactions and attitudes towards death; loss and spiritual companionship, Claude Miller's 2002 film sideswipes a glance at motherhood or, specifically, parenthood. In short, it's an interesting enough little drama which doesn't necessarily uproot the trees it thinks it does, but does enough.

    Observe, if you will, one of the stories therein Miller's piece; a short about a young boy named José living with his mother-plus-male guardian in a rather downtrodden part of a big city. As José sits idly in one scene, unguarded, in front of a television with a collection of other tots, his mother makes love to guardian Francois (Mervil) in a room down the hall and the screen displays a performance by an ice-skater doing their routine. The underlying issues formulate, one of which is more broadly linked to that of how a parent with a child decides to spend quality time at home with it when there are others out in the world whom, for some tragic reason, have lost a child and would no doubt do a great deal to try and recall the opportunity at garnering access to the sort of time José's father has available to him. Secondly, after an idea in regards to the differing attitudes to parenting, the notion of what's playing on the television screen is hinted at as content which could very well be anything; the images captured by way of a collective gaze belonging to that of José and the other kids whom watch on with a stagnant awe at subject matter which is unguarded by those in charge, and might very well have seen them exposed to any kind of imagery.

    A second adult whom features prominently is the titular Betty, played by Sandrine Kiberlain; a character whose past tragedy in life involves the subjection to a mentally ill mother whilst young and the injuries she suffered at the hands of such a woman. Now grown up, with mother Margot (Garcia) now appearing on the straighter and more narrow having darted over to Spanish tourist spots on the off occasion, she lives as an author in the same urban locale with her very young son Joseph – the film informing us that it will now be providing us with "Joseph's story", and that in itself just somehow manages to set an ominous beginning. Our suspicions ring true, and Margot is responsible for one last slice of agony which deeply embeds itself into poor Betty's life; their bickering downstairs and consequent inability to properly lock down Joseph's room in the evening results in the child clambering where one mustn't clamber before falling to serious injury later resulting in death. Between Betty's rightfully aggrieved reaction, Margot suggests the kidnapping of another boy to fill the void.

    The aforementioned José is the second child whose "story" we observe, the film's attitude as a piece trying to reflect ideas, content and focus onto its child characters becoming more obvious; José being a young boy out with his suave and fast-talking father, a boy whom must pause with him as he chats or flirts with women out in public before venturing off to that apartment housing said girlfriend; something José must again silently suffer through because of the actions of a guardian. Crudely tied up into all of this is a muddled sub-plot not thematically concurrent to that of the rest of it to do with a young Lothario named Alex (Baer), a man whom gets involved in a real-estate scam and must do what he does to escape a poorer than you'd expect existence. Francois, meanwhile, is trying to find José following the taking of the boy and everybody including José's mother gets mixed up with everybody else as Alex tries to woo her himself.

    When we observe González Iñárritu's 2006 film Babel, we find common-ground in the reoccurring theme of youngsters underestimating the powers therein their own hands that they most certainly possess; a bolt action rifle in the physical sense on one strand and a more metaphysical item in that of brooding sexuality on the other coming to formulate the lives of, or predominantly that of, adults. Betty Fisher and her Other Stories seems desiring enough to place children at the core of its content around which adults struggle for firm grips on proceedings, but the film is mostly interesting without ever truly taking off, this multi-stranded approach has worked far better in the past in a number of differing films, and it is remarkable just how little most of it actually amounts to.
  • paul2001sw-119 January 2009
    Claude Miller's film, 'Betty Fisher and Other Stories' is both clever and supremely watchable, featuring a carefully (though not overdone) interlinked set of stories involving interesting and original characters, who attract varying degrees of sympathy from their audience, and set in a very believable rendering of modern Paris. Yet perhaps because it follows so many stories there's a sense that it skims lightly over them all: I didn't care so powerfully about any individual in the film. The result is a movie that's darkly entertaining, uniformly well-acted and skillfully directed, but emotionally detached.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The English title on the Region 2 release does a much better job of luring us into this stylish French thriller, part psychological study and part ensemble suspense story. Betty Fisher and Other Stories tells us about Brigitte Fisher (Betty is her nom de plume), a young woman who has written a successful novel. In New York she married briefly, had a child and has return to Paris. She had an unpleasant childhood with a mother who at times would become irrationally angry. Brigitte's marriage lasted six months. Now her son is four years old and her mother has unexpectedly arrived for medical "treatments." Days later, Brigitte's son falls from a second floor window and dies. Brigitte (Sandrine Kiberlain) is distraught and depressed. Her mother takes steps to fix that...by stealing a four-year-old child from a lower-class neighborhood and bringing the boy home for her daughter. Betty at first rejects the child but then slowly becomes attached. And we learn about the child's real mother, Carole Novacki, a surly young barmaid, shoplifter and part-time prostitute. There's Carole's live-in boy friend, Francoise, a laborer from Africa; Milo, the bartender with a short fuse where she works; Alex, the hustler, long-time friend and occasional bed-mate of Carole; there's Eduard, Brigitte's former husband who shows up and sees her now as a literary bread ticket. There is a whole cast of characters, including the police who are searching for the stolen boy. Their stories swirl around Brigitte's story, sometime overlapping, sometimes just glancing by.

    The stories come together at Orly Air Port in a violent confrontation which leaves these people and their stories getting what they deserve. Which means some die, some flee and some get on an airplane for Singapore.

    The director, Claude Miller, does two things very well. He not only involves us with all these stories, he gives them all an overlay of uneasy tension. Especially with Brigitte, her mother and the stolen boy, there is an edgy dread that quickly establishes itself. It eases up only when we realize the boy will survive, but there still is the question of what will happen to him. Miller also gives us some strong characters to get involved with, even if we don't like them too much. There's no flashy acting moments, just the steady building of information about these people, which Miller lets us discover for ourselves. The actors, in my view, all do fine jobs. Sandrine Kiberlain carries the movie and she handles her character with depth and skill. Nicole Garcia, who plays Brigitte's mother, makes us nervous whenever we see her. Just how unstable is Margot Fisher? The story, by the way, is from one of Ruth Rendell's psychological thrillers.

    This is a movie which keeps something of a cool distance from the many goings on. I don't think this is a fault. It helps us examine Brigitte's evolving feelings and helps us make choices about the characters. I'd be surprised if any viewer doesn't finally agree with Brigitte's choice.
  • jcappy29 January 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    "Alias Betty" promises more than it delivers. The early scenes, in introducing us to two convincing, lifelike characters, suggest French film at its best--and one just wants to savor the building drama. However, as soon as plot elements begin to insert themselves--a la Hollywood--character development gets circumscribed. Betty Fisher shrinks in stature and in interest as the film progresses, Margot becomes a bit tiresome and disappears, and Carole grows more deviant and is killed off. In other words, all three of these modern mothers are initially more, and are capable of more, than who they become.

    One never gets the impression that the Betty Fisher we first know---so original in looks, physicality, and response--is going to be a kind of child sop mother. Yes, she does have a fatherless son, and she is determined to do more by him than her neuro-mental mother did by her, but this son is hardly his mother's keeper. Her care for him is not uncompromising--the accident should be proof enough of that--nor is her deep depression over his death anything but understandable, given her personal history. Thus she convincingly maintains this stance with Joe-2, her responses to him being that of any career woman similarly positioned, occasionally sympathetic but generally finding the kid burdensome.

    But soon the plot starts to get inside her head and wreck havoc with her well based and centered identity. New plot characters begin to proliferate. Maternal clichés start to predominate (teddy bears, Christmas scenes, cute outdoors stuff). Betty the genuine novelist (at least in my mind, and Dr. Francois') becomes the tepid best seller--the kind which gives credence to her hubby's mockery. She is now simply subject to the cues of the plot , and is, as such, less adult, less interesting, less herself, and simply another Alex Basato, who is in the plot (he gets about as much time as she does by this point in the film), but redundant as a character.

    Margot, Betty's mom, is also loses fluency. Her mighty early notes grow false as her role diminishes. Yes, she can be shrill and perhaps a bit over the top, but she's clearly a sympathetic character, one we want to be part of the dramatic action and its outcome. Again, she descends from being loud, strong, a bigger than life on screen presence who's Betty's equal to being a plot messenger. She delivers Joe-2, and like her daughter, seems sacrificed to him.

    But Carole, Joe-2's mother, is not lessened by this little rascal--other plot aspects diminish her. But less so, because she emerges later in the film and is already enmeshed in plot, so can only descend less from an intrinsic identity. What Carole begins with is a wide sensual range coupled with an equally broad toughness which strangely seems to attract an array of male types. But her convincing sense of control, which if nothing else, is a foil to the new child-ridden Betty, quickly descends or is absorbed by an imposed role and plot which makes her little more than a warn sex object. The only sort of real character she gets to interact with, apart from her boyfriend, is her bar-tender boss---and he kills her.
  • This film really questions the sense of the "societally approved" justice and morality by an intriguing inquiry into the theme of motherhood. And it leaves you strained, confused and amused ! The film beautifully combines a tragedy with absurdity, and shows a witty balance of refrained emotion and black humor.

    The plot is made of a main story that could be summarized as a tragedy, which will have a domino effect, hence the different sub-plots, that ultimately merge in an unexpected ending, which then reflects a new light back upon the rest of the movie ! That's where the main problem of the film is, the coincidences at the end look a bit far-fetched and over-the-top but are still believable. Otherwise the directing is great and this films looks like a suspense thriller, a French one however, which means a lot of talk at the beginning. But don't be put off, it's highly rewarding.

    I could not commend enough how the acting here is excellent and realistic. The director paints a bunch of dysfunctional characters that all have something to hide. A sharp look at our modern society.

    to sum up : an intriguing suspense film that questions the society's self-righteousness (and ours) (8 out of 10)
  • This is a beautifully crafted, visually stimulating, intricately plotted humane thriller--yes, all of those things humane. No, it isn't for casual viewing, people don't slam doors and shoot guns every five minutes, and yes, the viewer must be able to read subtitles to understand whats going on, as even the opening flashback happens so quickly and unexpectedly that we wonder if we experience what we just saw.

    This is a puzzle film about parenthood, about children surviving in spite of a crazy world, a film contrasting social worlds and attitudes. Typically French in being thoughtful rather than action-oriented, the depictions of an off-kilter parent are all too real--and there are several of them. Not a masterpiece, but well-worth careful watching
  • The superb acting of Sandrine Kiberlain and Nicole Garcia as apparent foils drives this film into a maze of suspense, illogic, and ironic twists that result in a cinematic synergism rarely achieved. As the plot develops it becomes virtually impossible to determine who is less sane. Betty's role, as portrayed by Kimberlain, is in many ways no more sane that that of Garcia's as her mother. In fact, as the film progresses, one wonders if Betty and her mother are indeed more alike than different. Kiberlain's restrained tolerance and Garcia's divine madness result in the creation of two characters the viewer will not soon forget, if ever.
  • It looks like a promising movie, and it is to some extent, but I feel like it failed to show us the characters. The acting was good, but not entirely convincing at times. The movie as far as suspense and such is bad. No suspense, no action, no intensity. I didn't really understand some of the movie, and that may be why I didn't enjoy it.

    If you like intriguing story lines and (for the most part) a solid movie, this is for you. I won't give anything away, but the ending is a little disappointing. I rate this a 7/10.

    In case no one knows (but you should), this is a French movie.

    (My rating) R-Some sexual content/language, and brief violence
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