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Nurse Betty

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Nurse Betty

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Renee Zellweger
Director: Neil LaBute
Rated: R
RunTime: 110 Minutes
Release Date: September 2000
Genre: Comedy

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

Nurse Betty (Renée Zellweger) goes in search of her ex-fiancé, Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear), in Neil LaBute's sweetly romantic, fairytale comedy for adults, NURSE BETTY. David lost his wife last year in a tragic decapitation during a car accident. Of course, since they've never located her head, the exact circumstances of the event are still in question, especially since his wife had been having an affair with a mobster.

Actually Betty isn't a real nurse at all, although she's been busy impersonating one at a Los Angeles hospital where David works. She left Kansas for the first time to come and find him. Did I mention that she has never really met David, except, that is, on television?

You see, David isn't real either. He is just the lead character in the popular soap opera, "A Reason to Love." Delightful playing bad soap star George McCord, Kinnear is equally charming as George's television character, David. Even when Kinnear is the villain, as he was recently in LOSER, he is always so likable that you end up secretly rooting for him. Here we want Betty and David, I mean George, to get together since both are so appealing.

It all starts way back in Kansas, where Betty works as a waitress at the Tip Top Diner. Whenever David is on the tube at the diner, Betty's eyes become transfixed, and she dishes out coffee like a robot. On her birthday, her coworkers give her the perfect present, a cardboard cutout of her hero.

Betty's home life is no picnic. She ignores her cheating husband (Aaron Eckhart, star of IN THE COMPANY OF MEN) for her own dream world with David. When a couple of bad guys, played with great evil comedic charm by Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock, violently kill her husband in the kitchen, she snaps and heads west looking for her dreamboat. After all, David said on the television that "I just know that there's something really special out there for me," and she knows that he must have been speaking about her.

Zellweger (JERRY MAGUIRE) delivers the best and sweetest performance of her career in NURSE BETTY. She is wacky but wonderful, a crazed fan with an unshakable belief in life's infinite possibilities. With a huge smile, Betty has a childlike innocence. As George says to her, "your dedication scares me." Her infatuation ends up sweeping him off his feet. The surprising scene when they first meet is the most brightly written one in a script bursting with wonderfully imaginative scenes. The screenplay by John C. Richards and James Flamberg won the award as the best screenplay at this year's Cannes International Film Festival.

Director LaBute, known for his demonic dramas (IN THE COMPANY OF MEN) and caustic comedies (YOUR FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS), is one of my personal favorites. This, his third film, is the first time that he has worked from someone else's script. Here, he proves, in case there was any doubt, that he's just as brilliant a director as he is a writer. And this being a LaBute film, there is an undercurrent of danger, as well as a bit of pathos. Nevertheless, the film is an amazingly good-spirited one, especially for someone known for exploring people's darkest impulses.

The cheerful cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier (GOOD WILL HUNTING) with its bright colors adds to the story's upbeat ambiance. The strong supporting cast has so many terrific performances that it is hard to pick a favorite, but mine might be Allison Janney (AMERICAN BEAUTY) as the soap's hard-nosed producer. She is perfectly willing to kill off the character of David if George doesn't do what she wants.

Traditional fairytales end with a simple, "they lived happily ever after." I won't give away how NURSE BETTY ends, but I thought it was perfect, especially its little epilog, which was icing on the cake.

NURSE BETTY runs 1:52. It is rated R for strong violence, pervasive language and a scene of sexuality and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes

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