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Current Film Reviews

"Nurse Betty"

Starring: Renee Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, Greg Kinnear, Aaron Eckhart, Tia Texada, and Crispin Glover

Directed by Neil LaBute, Screenplay by John C. Richards and James Flamberg. Produced by Gail Mutrux and Steve Golin. Cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier. Editing by Joel Plotch and Steven Weisberg. Music by Rolfe Kent.


Why do only fools fall in love? It's a prerequisite. Bunches of production companies in Europe, along with Propaganda Films and ab'strakt pictures brings you a story of love, madness, and redemption. It's sweet, funny and thought-provoking. All this from the man who directed Your Friends and Neighbors. Distributed by USA Films. Rated R, cause someone gets done in In'jun style. Runtime is 109 minutes.

Reviewed by tiny tim
"tip toe through the tulips, fa, la, la"

Summary and Review

We live in a cold cruel world. Maybe the only way you escape to a happier place is to go crazy. But watch out, you'll be noticed. People will try to cure you and will hate you when they can't. Nurse Betty is definitely not from the school of mindless entertainment which we are still digging out from after Summer 2000's onslaught. A new and well done change of pace by Director LaBute, Nurse Betty will have you pondering its message as end credits roll. A good way to spend some evening time and money for those that like weighty films. Three and a half grins.

Story

Betty Sizemore (played by Renee Zellweger) works as a coffeeshop waitress in small-town Kansas. There's not much joy in her life, other than her devotion to a daytime soap opera, "A Reason to Love". "A Reason to Love"; beautiful nurses and handsome doctors at the Loma Vista clinic living romantic fairytale lives. Meanwhile, back in the real world, it's Betty's birthday but no one seemed to remember; least of all, her scumball, skirt-chasing husband, Del (played by Aaron Eckhart). Del, a real loser, along with being a rotten husband, has a huge attitude problem. It's his attitude that gets him in trouble with two mob killers who pay him a visit just looking for a reason. Del, with a crack about the town's Native American population give the hit men that reason and surprise!!!, Del gets scalped. Damm, sometimes it's just better to keep your mouth shut, even if you have a sock stuffed in it. Unbeknown to the killers, Betty gets a ringside seat at Del's scalping. A rather graphic little episode that causes Betty to lose her grip on reality. Suddenly, rather than Coffeeshop Betty, she is now Nurse Betty and she better get her backside back to the Loma Vista clinic where she belongs. Del, who owns a car lot has plenty of cars available and Betty needs one to get to California. Turns out she grabs the one that has 15 kilos of some unspecified narcotics stashed by Del in the trunk that the killers are trying to find. Betty makes it to California and meets up with the handsome star of her soap; Dr. David Ravell, played by George McCord (played by Greg Kinnear) while the killers, Charlie and Wesley (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock) drag their sorry asses through Purgatory (also known as the desert Southwest) searching for their prey. Adventure, romance and fantasy prevail.


Review

After watching Nurse Betty, it's a bit surprising that Neil LaBute directed this film. It's kind of like Tarantino directing a musical. For those who don't know LaBute's previous work, suffice to say, his character leads are people you really don't want to know in real life. The interesting thing about Betty is that she is so good, people either can't deal with it or don't believe it. By the end of the film, she becomes a saint for someone who has led a life of sin. LaBute sets up a contrast of characters between Betty who is good, trusting, and innocent and supposedly whacked out of her gourd, and everyone else who are petty, mean, uptight, disbelieving but firmly in control of their mental facilities. Not necessarily original but certainly well done in this movie. What's also interesting is that the other characters want to pull Betty down into the petty reality of their world. Rosa (played by Tia Texada) wants to shock Betty back to her senses and gets increasingly frustrated when it doesn't work. Ravell/McCord goes off the deep end when he finds out that Betty can't drop her role. And the hit team just assumes that Betty stole their drugs when she took off in one of Del's autos. LaBute does a good job in setting up the contrast between innocence and sin and at times the film seemed to take on the style of a modern day Catholic morality play. Add to the mix, the fact that Betty's world is created by actors who can't accept the idea that someone would believe it, makes Nurse Betty even more complex in the questions it poses to the audience.

From a craft perspective, I particularly like the staging when Betty and Dr.Ravell/George McCord first meet. Shot, most likely, with a very long lens to give the background that blurry glittering look. Using extreme close ups and "dirty singles" (close-up framed by just the backprofile of the head and shoulders of the opposite cast member) this scene has a wonderful romantic feeling. Zellweger, who I feel was a misused straight-man in "Me, Myself, & Irene" is back in her element with Nurse Betty. The same warm smile, which worked in Jerry Maguire, works perfectly in Betty. The magic in the eyes and the smile even win over those who seek to destroy her. Through production design as well as some post-production color desaturation, LaBute highlights the contrast between Betty's magical fantasy world and the drabness of coffeeshops, car lots, cowboy bars and studio backlots. One thing that got on my nerves was the overly sweet musical score. Yes, I know it fits with the story but it still made me nauseous.

If you are into "thinking person's films" Nurse Betty is will give you a payoff. Character and story are complex leaving lots of room for interpretation. It's a nice piece of work done by a director who has succeeded in demonstrating his range for storytelling.

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