Cruel But Necessary
Facts and Figures
Run time: 92 mins
In Theaters: Tuesday 7th June 2005
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Cruel But Necessary Review
That's just the beginning of the awkwardness in Cruel But Necessary, which has an increasingly possessed -- yet cheerful and quite lovable in her own way -- Betty (Wendel Meldrum) planting videocameras around her house, her workplace, and public locations -- including her gynecologist's office -- as she becomes obsessed with capturing every facet of her life on film.
The entire movie is presented as raw footage from Betty's secret cameras, usually with her on screen. When she's not around, you know something awful's going to happen. Her mother will steal from Betty's purse. Her son's friend will confess that people think "his mom is hot." Along the way, Betty is obviously searching -- for more evidence that she's being wronged? Proof that she is loved? For what it's hard to say.
The movie was written by star Meldrum and directed by veteran character actor Saul Rubinek (you'd know him if you saw him) in what was clearly a fiercely independent, guerilla production. Betty's adventures are awkward to say the least: Her desperate dates are almost excruciating; a scene where she confronts an accused sexual harasser is Curb Your Enthusiasm-funny, and then there's the newly Buddhist friend who receives a surprise from Betty that I wouldn't dare spoil. Obviously all of this horror captured as her unwitting subjects act out, thinking they're alone (or at least not on camera), is meant for our amusement, and the movie definitely lives up to its "cruel" moniker... but is it "necessary?"
The question of Betty's journey as a character is open-ended and not wholly satisfying. She gets busted before the movie's end, and stages a screening so everyone can see what she's been recording all this time. They don't have a lot to say about it, and neither does Betty. What has she learned in all of this? That's a question best left to DVD commentary tracks.
The film is especially odd in that the actor playing Betty's estranged husband is Meldrum's real-life ex-husband, and the guy playing her son is the duo's real-life son. That explains so many things about Cruel But Necessary -- remember that Meldrum wrote the script, too -- that I am going to go ahead and quit writing this review now, so as to avoid her potential wrath.