Saturday 11 May 2024

Movie Review: The Betsy (1978)

Genre: Drama  
Director: Daniel Petrie  
Starring: Laurence Olivier, Robert Duvall, Katharine Ross, Tommy Lee Jones, Lesley-Ann Down, Kathleen Beller  
Running Time: 125 minutes  

Synopsis: Loren Hardeman (Laurence Olivier) is the wealthy aging patriarch of an automotive dynasty. Eager to reclaim former glories, he hires racing driver Angelo Perino (Tommy Lee Jones) as chief designer for a new fuel efficient car to be named after his great grand-daughter Betsy (Kathleen Beller). Angelo clashes with company president Loren III (Robert Duvall) and has an affair with Lady Ayres (Lesley-Anne Down). Flashbacks to the 1930s reveal Loren's frustrations with his weakling son Loren II (Paul Ryan Rudd), who falls victim to a manipulator and neglects his wife Sally (Katharine Ross).

What Works Well: Saturated with bedroom and boardroom shenanigans, a "what next" fascination settles over this adaptation of Harold Robbins' novel. Both the modern day and 1930s timelines feature lavish sets and deeply flawed but powerful men and women eager to betray each other, and director Daniel Petrie hustles the drama along by keeping the characters true to their hormone-defined intentions.

What Does Not Work As Well: The stellar cast is well above the television-level soapy plot, despite the added spice of nudity, sex, and bits of violence. Given free rein by director Daniel Petrie, Laurence Olivier hams-up a caricature combination of cuddly grandpa and ruthless businessman. The other performances are emotionally stilted and constrained by mechanical dialogue, exposing hollowness under the glossy hood.

Conclusion: The engine revs without memorable spirit nor purpose.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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