Opinion Piece – Angela Bettis: An Appreciation

Bettis in Lucky McKee/Jack Ketchum's The Woman

Bettis in Lucky McKee/Jack Ketchum’s The Woman

By Jordan

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army is better than The Dark Knight, Chloe Grace Moretz is in serious danger of being rejected by the film-going public if she keeps seeking to be ‘edgy’ (don’t even get me started on what I think of a Carrie remake, let alone Let Me In), Pixar’s recent selling-out renders Studio Ghibli the ultimate victor in the animation war and Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter’s recent output has cast a black mark over their entire careers.

I love opinion pieces.

But not as much as I love the endlessly underappreciated Angela Bettis.

With the independent cinema scene so continually misinterpreted by the misguided masses quoting Little Miss Sunshine and Juno on an endless loop, the spirit of indie filmmaking has all but been overrun by studios casting Toni Collette or Bill Murray in ‘quirky’ roles and labelling their movie’s ‘cool.’ (500) Days of Summer, a good idea dragged down by allowing Zooey ‘I’ll sing at every opportunity to sell She & Him CDs’ Deschanel to, well, do her namesake, is a film often referred to in this junket, despite its close-to $8,000,000 budget and pre-loved stars.

May, Angela’s first leading role and the debut feature of her artistic match Lucky McKee, had an estimated budget of $500,000… and it is one of the most exquisitely acted and crafted films of the naughties. So why aren’t all the skivvy-wearing, lacklustre beard toting (if you’re going to grow one, do it properly) and mix-tape making cats spreading the word? Because properly original films turn them off. Their loss, our gain. Playing an awkward veterinary surgeon longing for the man with ‘perfect hands,’ Bettis shines in the titular role of May, drawing instant empathy that continues even when her weirdness takes over and through her naïve innocence creating a likeability that cannot be undone.

She is fearless as an actress, a muse for a fine filmmaker and has a distinct, captivating appearance. If May (2002) were the only film she ever contributed to she would still be fondly regarded, but thankfully, it isn’t…

In 1999 and 2000, she provided strong support in James Mangold’s popular Girl, Interrupted and Chuck Russell’s extremely bizarre (though thoroughly entertaining) Bless the Child respectively, and soon after May successfully played Carrie White in the surprisingly solid (though still unnecessary) TV adaption. Following this was Tobe Hooper’s return to form, Toolbox Murders (2004), the experimental The Circle (2005), Lucky McKee’s Masters of Horror episode Sick Girl (2006), Drones (2010 – an absolute gem) and McKee’s recent cult masterpiece The Woman (2011). Supremely talented, she has also appeared in the popular TV shows House, Dexter, CSI and Criminal Minds, and has two directing credits to her name: Roman (2006), a follow-up of sorts to May, with McKee playing the lead role alongside a young Kristen Bell, and The ABCs of Death segment “E is for Exterminate” (2012).

If there are any of the above films that you are yet to see; I recommend jumping on Amazon to fix that.

I started this opinion piece with possible controversy and a scathing critique, but let there be no doubt as to the optimism I feel for independent cinema. In the 90’s, through Kevin Smith (Clerks) and Richard Linklater (Slackers) it was the dialogue of the every-day disillusioned that launched a movement, now, it is representations of the ostracised re-entering or reacting to society in mostly violent ways. Those seeking an authentic experience need track down should look no further than Tasmanian Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones (2009), Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s blood-splattered Inside (À l’intérieur, 2007), Ben Wheatley’s Kill List (2011) and, of course, Lucky McKee’s The Woman. There may not be any pre-teen romances backed by pop-folk music, but there is an enthusiasm unrivalled in any other genre and though she appears in only one of the above titles, Angela Bettis represents the best of all of this; she is an intelligent and creative professional, capable of getting the best out of herself and turning even supporting roles into the most memorable.

In short, she’s amazing… and word is that she’s appearing in an upcoming Terrence Malick project. Watch this space.

May poster

11 responses to “Opinion Piece – Angela Bettis: An Appreciation

    • Very glad you agree – her appearance in any film is enough for me watch it. How The Woman (novella included) isn’t discussed more is beyond me: powerful performances, themes and a brilliant soundtrack.

  1. The problem with someone like Angela is, the moment that she has mainstream success… she’ll be too successful, and then she’ll be in the same boat as Zooey.

    Still, thanks for the tip, I look forward to checking out her movies 🙂

    • Yeah it could’ve been half the (great) film it is if she didn’t give such a solid performance – her and Sherri Moon Zombie both making appearances, as well as Hooper behind the camera will certainly ensure Toolbox Murders stays an underground favourite in the future.

  2. “With the independent cinema scene so continually misinterpreted by the misguided masses quoting Little Miss Sunshine and Juno on an endless loop, the spirit of indie filmmaking has all but been overrun by studios casting Toni Collette or Bill Murray in ‘quirky’ roles and labelling their movie’s ‘cool.’”

    Wonderfully stated. You have successfully blended your admiration for Bettis with a trenchant critique of the masquerade of Hollywood independent cinema.

  3. Pingback: Opinion Piece – Linda Fiorentino: An Appreciation | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

  4. Pingback: Classic Review – May (2002) | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

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