The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag

(Allan Moyle, USA, 1992)


Director Allan Moyle (Pump Up the Volume, 1990) was a well-received guest at Australia’s National Screenwriters’ Conference in 1992, but his film The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag subsequently arrived here with little advance word – presumably because it was not a box office smash in America.

It lacks the hard, provocative edge of some of Moyle’s previous projects, but is nonetheless a superbly crafted comedy.

The script by Grace Cary Bickley is a variation on the Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) formula. Betty Lou, a timid, romantically unfulfilled housewife (beautifully played by Penelope Ann Miller), finds herself one day mistaken by police and neighbours for a local killer.

Instead of extricating herself from the ensuing confusion – which makes her an instant media celebrity and also captures the attention of an organised crime ring – Betty Lou defiantly adopts her new, phantom identity.

Moyle juggles the various levels of the story – banal, small town rituals and exciting, romantic adventures – with considerable élan. Indeed, it is almost a miracle that he has been able to infuse such life into the standard elements of virtually every Touchstone Pictures production – lifestyle and fashion jokes, cute animals, bloodless violence, reassuring romance, and a touristic touch of local colour.

MORE Moyle: Times Square

© Adrian Martin July 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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