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Nurse Betty
2000 - R - 112 Mins.
Director: Neil LaBute
Producer: Gail Mutrux, Steve Golin
Written By: John Richards, James Flamberg, John C. Richards
Starring: Renee Zellweger, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, Greg Kinnear
Review by: David Trier
   
How dark can a dark comedy be before it's officially just plain dark? This is the question that plagued me most throughout this well-acted, but completely preposterous film.

Betty Sizemore (Renee Zellweger) is a sweet young waitress at a local diner in Kansas and she's obsessed with a soap opera, "A Reason to Love." Her grit car salesman husband, Del (Aaron Eckhart), has stolen a car full of cocaine and is stupid enough to try and sell it to the very people who've been hired to get it back, Charlie and Wesley (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock). When Betty sees her husband gruesomely scalped and murdered, she snaps and starts to believe she's living in her soap opera. She is now Nurse Betty and she sets off to Los Angeles (in Del's stolen car) to find the man of her life, Dr. David Ravell from the show (Greg Kinnear). She has a little trouble getting a job at a hospital seeing as how she has no credentials, until a freak car accident gives her an opportunity to save someone's life (by sticking a tube in a victim's neck because she saw it on tv). To thank her, Rosa (Tia Texada), the sister of the man she saved let's her stay at her place. As they become friends, Rosa discovers that Betty is here to find a fictional character and arranges for her to meet the actor at a festival. But (conveniently enough) he believes her to be a great actress and tries to get her on the show. Once she's actually on the set, she finally breaks down and reality sets back in. Meanwhile, Charlie and Wesley struggle through the midwest to hunt her down. Charlie becomes enamored by the idea of her as Wesley becomes more angry. Sheriff Ballard (Pruitt Taylor Vince) and Roy, a reporter (Crispin Glover) are also trying to find her since she left so abruptly after her husband's death. All forces converge toward the end and everybody more or less gets what they deserve, be it love, rejection, or a bullet.

Hollywood's perception of mental illness and trauma never ceases to amaze me. The idea that anyone would delve so deeply into a fantasy world in the face of trauma and then just snap right back is irritatingly convenient for screenwriters. And the way people treat each other when they find out is just as upsetting. For example, Rosa discovers that Betty is truly insane, so she sets her up to meet the actor in the hopes that she'll be humiliated. What kind of friend is that? Why doesn't she just get her some help? But so much about this story doesn't make sense. How are we to believe that Kinnear's character spends days with Betty and doesn't get that she's loopy? She's just a committed actor? She should be committed. And the thought that any hospital would ever under any circumstances hire this woman as a nurse without any credentials solely because she jabbed a tube in a strangers neck while no one was looking... terrifying.

Zellweger is an excellent actress and she really shines from beginning to end. She has an impressive control of her emotions and uses smiles and tears at just the right moments. But she struggles to bring realism to a character that's hard to take seriously. Morgan Freeman is a wonderful actor and here he provides an intriguing depth to a character that's less than respectable. Greg Kinnear is perfect as the arrogant soap star, a character he plays in one form or another in almost every movie he's in. Chris Rock, although very funny, is clearly more of a stand-up comedian than a film actor. Most of his lines end with a look that suggests he's wondering if they said cut yet. But it's especially hard to match acting wits with Freeman. Aaron Eckhart is terrific as the obnoxious hillbilly husband, mullet hairdo and all.

The strange thing about this movie is that it really isn't "bad." It just doesn't make any sense. The acting is very good for the most part, the dialogue is excellent, in fact each individual scene is at the very least... entertaining. But its character motivations are implausible and the pacing is so disturbingly slow, it's hard to tell what the point of it all is. The underlying message is, of course, just be yourself because your special. Well, you're not and we're all gonna die some day. Cheerio!
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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