"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.