Nurse Betty (2000)

NURSE BETTY, the new film from long-flamed filmmaker Neil LaBute 
(YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS), is a splendid, quirky, and utterly 
unpredictable black comedy that, somehow, some way, manages to be 
both sweetly adorable and gut-punching-ly violent.  (Calm down, 
there's *way* more of the former than the latter...)  Renee Zell-
weger gives one her best-ever (and all-time most facially animat-
ed!) performances as a small-town soap-opera junkie and diner-work-
ing wife-of-white-trash (Aaron Eckhart's perfectly boorish used car 
salesman) who becomes convinced that she's the ex-fiancee of the 
main character of her favorite, hospital-set show.  ("A Reason to 
Live."  Gasp!)  From rural Kansas to Metro L.A. she moves, to pro-
fess her love and hopefully reclaim her make-believe relationship 
with the ever-earnest Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear).  The twist-- 
well, the first of *several* twists-- is that Ms. Rosy Cheeks is 
herself being sought, by a pair of serious-business (if oft-bicker-
ing) hit men and one of whom is becoming increasing fascinated by 
*her*.  (The pair consists of Chris Rock's shrill-swearing hothead 
and Morgan Freeman's sagely speaking old-timer with a cowboy hat.)  
What *they* want is something she doesn't know she has and it ain't 
that life-size cardboard cutout of Dr. Ravell, either!  

Greg Kinnear is the fourth pro presence and his second-hour partic-
ipation takes the already multi-leveled film right over the top, to 
TRUMAN SHOW-like heights.  (The actor's also a hoot in those super-
serious soap scenes.  And don't miss that side-shot shot of Kinnear 
kissing Zellweger!  You could teach geometry from those perfectly 
square jaws!)  The supporting characters are nearly as memorable.   
Not 'cause they're weird, wacky, or wild; rather, the smaller roles
-- such as Allison Janney's shrewdly smirking television producer-- 
are remarkable because they're so... discretely realistic.  No 
bells or whistles; just... impressively unimpressive plain folk.  
In fact, attention to realism is arguably the film's strongest as-
set.  Well, next to star power.  Despite the odd left-turns of the 
plot, the story always feels palatably *real*.  Looks real, too, 
courtesy of Jean-Yves Escoffier's superbly colored cinematography.
Alas, the film's only notable failing is LaBute's attempt to add a 
sentimental layer atop everything else.  Doesn't work.  Zellweger's 
character is a FORREST GUMP-style creation.  She's likeable *and* 
loveable, but most certainly not moving.  With Tia Texada, Pruitt 
Taylor Vince, and ol' George McFly, Crispin Glover.  Hello?  Anybody 
home?  Screenplay by John Richards and James Flamberg, both of whom 
I'd like to thank for scripting one of the year's most absolute a-
musing lines, Morgan Freeman to Aaron Eckart:  "I'm asking for an 
example of these dumbf*cks being dumbf*cks."  Fabulous.  Go, get in 
touch with your blackness.  (Rated "R"/108 min.)

Grade: A-

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros