Nurse Betty Movie Review

Subscribe Renee Zellweger

Heretofore known for his viciously incisive, very black socio-sexual satires, director Neil LaBute takes a joyride in antic comedy territory with "Nurse Betty." It's charming effort of pure entertainment about a gentle, bouncy Kansas waitress who becomes convinced she's a part of her favorite soap opera after being sent into post-traumatic shock by witnessing a murder.

The murder was that of her abusive, redneck husband (LaBute regular Aaron Eckhart in another amazing chameleon performance) -- a retribution for a shady business deal gone wrong.

The waitress, Betty Sizemore, is the kind of bona fide wide-eyed innocent most Hollywood actresses wouldn't be able to play without slipping into a hammy, ignorant hayseed routine and winking ironically at the audience. But in the hands of Renée Zellweger -- who proved her sweetheart credibility in "Jerry Maguire" -- Betty is 100 percent genuine sugar.

She's so absorbed in the cheesy daytime drama "A Reason to Love" -- starring handsome, talentless George McCord (Greg Kinnear) as sexy surgeon Dr. David Ravell -- that she can blindly pour coffee at the diner without turning away from the TV. She's so eager to please that she kowtows to her callous husband's whims. She's so sensitive and tentative that she walks in tippy-toey baby steps, as if unsure of where a long stride might take her. Zellweger carries all this off beautifully and without a hint of caricature.

So watching through a crack in her bedroom door as her husband is scalped (LaBute's dark touches rear their heads now and again) is just too much for Betty's delicate disposition. She flips out and her mind retreats to her favorite place -- the melodramatic world of "A Reason to Love."

Slipping into imagination, she concocts a fantasy in which she is "Nurse Betty," Dr. Ravell's long-lost ex-fiancée. She boosts a Buick from her dead husband's used car lot and makes for L.A., the setting of the soap, giddy to reunite with him.

Meanwhile, the hit men are hot on her trail, bickering like an old married couple. LaBute scored another casting coup with this duo: Morgan Freeman plays the elder, calm and courtly criminal, who develops a crush on Betty from reading her diary and staring at her photograph. Chris Rock is his short-tempered protégé, forever popping off about the fact that his partner seems to have cracked.

LaBute's black humor sensibilities, which caused such a swirl of controversy around his "In the Company of Men" and "Your Friends and Neighbors," give a bit of bite to the movie's Coen Brothers-like atmosphere as he flirts with the caustic while keeping one foot firmly planted in a chirpy sincerity that is both winsome and funny.

This is the first film LaBute has directed from someone else's script. While the screenplay (by John C. Richards and James Flamberg) took an award home at Cannes this year, had it been handed to some dime-a-dozen helmsman who cut his teeth on music videos, it could have been dumbed down to a low-brow slapstick matinee starring whichever sexy-perky sitcom-transplant was hot during the casting call.

It's LaBute's weighty casting and surprisingly subtle, go-with-the-flow approach to the story's absurdities that makes the film so enjoyable.

Once in L.A., Betty dumb-lucks into a pharmacy job at the hospital where she thinks Dr. Ravell works, and soon a spicy Latina (Tia Texada) she's befriended tries to shake her out of her fantasy by taking her to a charity do where soap star McCord is appearing -- out of character.

But when she approaches him like an old lover and addresses him by his character's name, McCord assume she's a pushy actress forcing an audition on him. When he decides to play along, hoping to get her in bed, the escapade only accelerates.

Every ingredient that went into the making of "Nurse Betty" was carefully measured by LaBute, who proves himself a very good cook. Every performance is not only true to each three-dimensionally written character, but is individually entertaining. Kinnear, for example, makes a perfect egotistical soap star. "Couldn't I have an evil twin?" he begs Allison Janney ("Drop Dead Gorgeous"), who steals a few scenes herself as the soap's acerbic producer.

Plus, LaBute has a taste for incidental comedic details that give the movie character -- like the Dorothy-goes-to-the-prom gingham checked dress Betty wears in a romantic fantasy Freeman has about her, or the way the director establishes what a habitual cheat Betty's husband is by introducing him in a office sex scene with his secretary, passing the camera just above them to show the wear on the wall where the secretary's shoes and fingernails have scratched the same spot innumerable times before.

While "Nurse Betty" isn't quite the sum of its such impeccable parts, Zellweger's incredibly earnest, enthusiastic performance ties it all together in a way no other actress could.

Subscribe Renee Zellweger


Nurse Betty Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, Opened: Friday, September 8, 2000


More Renee Zellweger

Renee Zellweger Addresses Attention Surrounding New Look: "I'm Glad Folks Think I Look Different"

When Renee Zellweger attended the Elle Women In Hollywood Awards on Monday (October 20th), with her boyfriend, musician Doyle Bramhall II at the Four Seasons...

Was That Really Renee Zellweger At The Elle Women In Hollywood Awards?

We expected Renee Zellweger to have changed quite a bit since we first fell in love with her as Bridget Jones 13 years ago. But...

Keanu Reeves Replaces Daniel Craig In Courtroom Drama 'The Whole Truth'

Deadline are reporting that Keanu Reeves has replaced Daniel Craig in the courtroom drama The Whole Truth. Craig had been cast as a defence attorney...

Daniel Craig Quits 'The Whole Truth' Days Before Production Start Date

James Bond actor Daniel Craig has pulled out of his new movie The Whole Truth just days before production was due to begin in Boston....


Matthew McConaughey and Others Who Shed The Pounds For Movie Roles

Losing or gaining more than 20 pounds is a huge deal for most people. Not for the celebrities though! Those guys drop and put back...

Bridget Jones' Plot Twist Leaves Fans Outraged As Darcy Gets Killed Off: Twitter Reacts

Bridget Jones has been shy from the 'New Releases' pile at bookstores for 14 years now, but in that time (thanks to the popular movie...

Bridget Jones Third Novel Promises Monumental Character Death

It's the biggest literary news of the past seven days: if you somehow haven't heard who author Helen Fielding has killed off in her Bridget...

Richard Curtis Bows Out Of Filmmaking: What's His Secret Rom-Com Formula?

Master of the romantic comedy genre, Richard Curtis, who helped bring us some of Britain's best-loved romance films of the last three decades has said...