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Finding Betty

average rating is 1 out of 5


William Hemingway


Posted on:

Sep 14, 2022

Film Reviews
Finding Betty
Directed by:
Jeff Gammage, Bailey Larue
Written by:
Jean Rollens Adam Jr.
Jean Rollens Adam Jr. , Marie Adam, Voice of Betty Wilson

In 1992 Betty Wilson was convicted of Conspiracy To Murder in Alabama, for allegedly hiring someone to kill her husband. Betty's twin sister, Peggy was also tried for the same charge, conspiring along with Betty to have her husband killed and hiring James White to do the job, but Peggy was found innocent by a different Alabama court, although the exact same evidence was used in her trial. The strange discrepancy in this case caught the eye of the producers of Forensic Files who commissioned an episode dedicated to Betty Wilson's plight, but as I gather usually happens in the show, nothing new was brought to light and the case remained hanging as a 'mystery'.


Watching Forensic Files that day – or later on Netflix – was a young Political Science student named Jean Rollens Adam Jr. who felt like he was missing something, or the police were missing something, or the prosecution was missing something as they watched Betty be put away for thirty years over a case full of circumstantial evidence and continuity holes. Jean never got the bee out of his bonnet and set about compiling a case for the defence, despite not being a lawyer nor training to become a lawyer, and seemingly having no clue about case law in the United States.


Nothing has been able to deter Jean for nearly two years and after compiling his own dossier about the case he now wants to share with the world his 'proof', to 'educate the case' as he puts it, and share what he feels is strong enough evidence to prove Betty's innocence. Listening to his mother you might think Jean to be a prodigy, a child genius who can accomplish great feats due to his astonishing zeal and precocious talent, who has grown to be an outstanding citizen that can fight injustices on every street corner and stand up for the weal of the common man. On his Facebook page Jean likes to stay inside, watch TV and follow basketball.


So, in Finding Betty, Jean tries to present his best argument, for eighty minutes, in front of a small group of his friends and other co-opted members, with just a whiteboard and a squeaky black marker to help organise his thoughts. He writes things down at random, placing them in different columns and spaces on the board which have no real relevance to one another, which are never clearly defined, and which are hit with the end of the pen when Jean wants to refer to them later in his argument. His presentation is a mess and completely useless to anyone but him in trying to follow the particulars of the case, especially when trying to decipher relationships, time-frames, locations, persons, reports or how any of these things relate to one another in Betty's defence.


If you'd rather, you can try to listen to Jean as he lays out all of these particulars in his own haphazard way, as most of the production is literally him in front of the whiteboard anyway, but it is an extreme challenge trying to follow him as he does so. For someone who has supposedly studied communications, Jean is not very adept at linking the different segments of his argument and consistently dives down verbal cul-de-sacs so that he's not sure what he's going to say next. His belief in himself is so paramount that he doesn't use notes or a script to organise or structure his defence and everything comes off as feeling very amateurish. It is almost guaranteed that within twenty minutes you will have missed one or more pieces of evidence; switched off at points as something important is being explained; or simply given up at knowing there's at least another hour of this to come. This does not make for good viewing.


There are small segments which pull away from the classroom, such as the completely unnecessary watermelon demonstration in the pouring rain, and the audio recordings of Betty played through a TV in the woods like a reformed, public service broadcast version of Edna from Willo The Wisp, but these add very little to the production. There's almost zero footage, newspaper reports, video interviews or anything else you would expect from a well researched documentary trying to engage you with its subject, there's not even a PowerPoint presentation – just Jean, his pen and whatever is written on his whiteboard – which means, in essence, that what we're watching isn't really a film.


What Finding Bettyis really making us watch, is a lecture. This is a video recording of a lawyer's briefing, or even worse a mock briefing from a law school, where a junior lawyer wannabe is laying their case out to their peers to see how well it stands up – except that in this case nobody in the room is a lawyer. It is commendable that Jean wants to highlight an injustice and right a wrong, but Finding Betty goes no way to doing that. A lot of what Jean presents wouldn't be admissible in a court of law and in the end he starts making things up – positing what 'he believes' to be the case.* There might be some saving grace if he actually managed to come to a clear conclusion with evidence of Betty's innocence, but sadly that isn't there either.


*(“So, during this alleged ride to the house, while James White was intoxicated on – ah, we'll give him 14 beers, we'll give him 4 in; 4 in the house while he's in there waiting.”)


Jean deserves support in working through the issues he has with Betty Wilson's case and the mental stress it has put him under, but he also needs to find better ways of expressing that. Perhaps presenting his findings to those who can do something about it – if indeed he does have a case; collating his data into something cohesive; going on a Podcast instead of on film – with a script; any one of these is bound to have a better result than making Finding Betty.

About the Film Critic
William Hemingway
William Hemingway
Digital / DVD Release, Documentary
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