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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.61%
Worth A Look45.77%
Average: 21.13%
Pretty Bad: 2.82%
Total Crap: 12.68%

13 reviews, 64 user ratings

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Nurse Betty
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by Erik Childress

"Message Undermines So-So Comedy"
3 stars

Nurse Betty is a sly comedy. Very sly. Have you ever seen a movie where its theme or message is right up front and in your face? The kind that you can barely enjoy what’s going on around it because it keeps coming back to slap you in the head, screaming “THIS IS WHAT THE MOVIE IS ALL ABOUT!!! THIS IS IT’S MEANING.” Nurse Betty doesn’t do that. It presents itself as a quirky road comedy with an underdog heroine, some sharp satire and a couple of violent, but likable hitmen. Then, during its climax, you get the slap. It is then when it’s true agenda sneaks up and hits you on the head with the force of a carnival hammer. Nurse Betty is sly alright. So sly that I can’t quite recommend it.

The Betty in question is Betty Sizemore (Renee Zellweger), a coffee shop waitress from Kansas with an addiction to her favorite soap opera, “A Reason to Love.” The breakout character on that show is handsome, lovelorn Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear), a man 180 degrees from the one she’s married to, the cheating car salesman, Del (Aaron Eckhart). After witnessing an incredibly violent episode (not of the TV show), Betty goes into a walking dream state, believing that the soap is real and she is the former fiancée of the show’s top star. Thus begins the road trip as Betty takes off in her husband’s Buick, also blind to the batch of drugs in the trunk that Charlie & Wesley (Morgan Freeman & Chris Rock), a couple of hitmen are after.

Now we’re set up for classic farce material and screenwriters John C. Richards & James Flamberg (who won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes this year) wisely don’t turn Betty’s adventures into simply wacky situations. When Betty gets a position at a Los Angeles hospital, we fear that sitcom-like humor awaits, but its limited to only a few minor scenes that get some laughs and then are put behind us in favor of her continued quest. The problem with that quest though is that it gets less and less interesting. Betty starts out the film as a warm, sympathetic presence, kind to strangers and stuck in a lifeless marriage. Yet as she digresses deeper and deeper into her psychosis, we begin to see her as more sick and pathetic than someone to root for. Meanwhile the best laughs in the film come from the two killers, with Freeman playing the cool professional mentor to Rock’s hothead Joe Pesci-like demeanor. But then, there’s the message.

Naturally I would not dream of revealing it here, but it must be discussed so I’ll skirt around it the way the film does. It comes during a monologue that Morgan Freeman delivers during its climax. It seemingly comes out from behind the wall of left field, but by playing the film over again in your head, one sees that it’s exactly what the film was saying all along. It’s a double standard message that could never have been pulled off with a male protagonist. The message is present in Betty’s marriage. In the way Betty perceives Dr. Ravell to be the perfect man, only to have her hopes dashed. In the way Morgan Freeman obsesses about and becomes infatuated by only a picture of Betty, not knowing the real Betty but merely judging a book by its cover. It almost seems like an apology from Neil LaBute for making In the Company of Men and Your Friends & Neighbors (two much better films mistakenly identified as misogynistic.) Rarely does a film bother me as much as Nurse Betty did after I had left the theater. Don’t think that I found Nurse Betty an extremely enjoyable comedy and then decided to punish it by giving it less than the usual amount of stars one gives to a film they recommend. Nurse Betty had problems even before its “one to grow on” finale.

While I enjoyed every single one of the performances in the movie, the laughs are pretty scattered through 112 minutes. For a great period of that running time, Nurse Betty is seemingly riding the coattails of a one-joke premise. Betty is oblivious to anything in the real world outside of the soap opera and its characters and then we watch character after character believe her and then realize she’s crazy. Her character is initially a kind of nutjob already so her trip into delusionville isn’t a very long trip. It does culminate in the film’s best scene, a very funny party sequence where all the soap actors believe she’s auditioning for a role. Yet the premise wears so thin so quick that I was happy when Kinnear (who’s again excellent) finally gets upset and tells her off. Freeman and Rock are such a pleasure to watch together, each bringing their own style, with Freeman showing a wonderful flair for comedy. They are the best thing in the movie, but what does it say that by the end, I was rooting for them more than I was for Betty. And that message didn’t help either.

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originally posted: 09/08/00 15:27:59
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell snide portrait of mental illness 1 stars
3/17/08 Pamela White Renee makes the movie 4 stars
2/10/07 Frank Rountree Entertaining, goofy movie, not bad 3 stars
7/18/06 David Cohen Mental illness, ain't it a hoot? 1 stars
12/16/05 R.W.Welch Has a delightfully flaky streak to it. Zellweger nails it here. 4 stars
10/11/05 Carolyn Rathburn Good film, didn't like the scalping part though 4 stars
8/09/05 C. Fidance I really liked it a lot. Thought it was fun to see Morgan in this kind of a role. 5 stars
8/07/05 Charlene Javier Renee before she sold-out. 4 stars
8/05/05 Nate Frary It was nice to see LaButte branch out a little. 4 stars
8/04/05 Carolyn Rathburn love Renee and Morgan, kind-of strange movie 4 stars
8/03/05 Eric Rollins Fine actors wasted on a mediocre story. 2 stars
2/02/04 Rocko gave me a head ache 1 stars
12/01/03 Mote Falange Incredibly original 5 stars
11/29/03 Samuel Chris Rock and Morgan Freeman save the film... 4 stars
7/06/03 Jack Sommersby Another meandering stink bomb from the talentless Neil LaBute. 1 stars
6/20/03 George Jung Amazing movie. 5 stars
4/30/03 R.W. Welch Works well in the early going but hits some false notes later on. Original though. 4 stars
11/20/02 Caiphn Not bad at all. 3 stars
8/24/02 Vito Pixie Even when Morgan Freeman shouts expletives, he's an incredible class act. Great performance 5 stars
8/06/02 Tulsa Slut Fractured bits of this&that add up to mildly amusing. 3 stars
6/04/02 I'm in (L) with a Jedi very very very good 5 stars
5/20/02 siro The on-screen chemistry between Freeman and Rock is wonderful.... 5 stars
4/08/02 hum not what i expected. unusual and very good 4 stars
3/01/02 Chowie Very very very good 5 stars
1/06/02 Andrew Carden Reene Is Hard To Not Like...Such A Distinguished and Loveable Actress. 4 stars
12/04/01 Bada Bing Crosby Fantastic, memorable, unique and boy am I glad I liked it so much, it feels great 5 stars
10/22/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) One of the bloodiest, nastiest, freakiest flicks I've ever seen. 3 stars
9/05/01 luana very good 5 stars
8/16/01 Belinda Very over rated. Not the slightest bit funny. 1 stars
7/24/01 Bud A no brainer romp. A fun night out. Rene is just right. 3 stars
7/08/01 Don't waste your money on this one Even looking past all of the insults against midwesterners, I would still say it sucked. 1 stars
6/26/01 Hugo Felix - Southern California Great adventure. Good comic relief but induced reflection. 5 stars
6/17/01 artpaws Great concept; execution is TERRIBLE: pacing drawn out and lifeless 2 stars
5/01/01 Monday Morning The first violent chick flick I've encountered. Original story...should see just for that. 4 stars
4/09/01 PatrickG. Below average film, few laughs, overall boring! Stupid story! 2 stars
4/03/01 perverted pixie "I'm the law. I don't gotta do nothing." Sheer class. 5 stars
3/19/01 Shawn Chris Rock's talent was under-utilized. 3 stars
3/19/01 arcoiris original; slyly hilarious 4 stars
3/15/01 k.j.tomko Average. 3 stars
2/21/01 Rich Did not get enough attention; Renee rules 4 stars
1/12/01 Matt69 The scalping scene fucking rocked. 3 stars
11/26/00 Cristopher Revilla interesing, you won't love it or hate it, you'll be neutral 4 stars
11/04/00 Rob Nothing like "Fargo". Walked out. Unbelievable, unfunny, actors sucked (except mulletboy) 1 stars
10/28/00 toe.3 WHY??? Who gave this guy the money for this?! 1 stars
10/17/00 master.node Distracting while you watch, but there's ultimately no depth to the movie. 3 stars
10/12/00 Mr. X It doesn't know what sort of movie it wants to be. 3 stars
10/05/00 Bonnie This is one of the most original films I've seen this whole year. 4 stars
9/26/00 YelloMiata@AOL.COM Close your eyes for five seconds, enjoy the rest of the movie. 4 stars
9/25/00 malcolm MsAsh, above, is a dumb ass. 4 stars
9/18/00 Suzz has an "American Beauty" quality about it in the juxtapositioning of extreme violence with 4 stars
9/17/00 McAss Harrison Ford is the killer! 4 stars
9/17/00 KAM What's w/all the hype? This movie is not that good 3 stars
9/16/00 john smith i loved it ...Fargoish and then some ... just loved it 5 stars
9/15/00 mary collins would have been comical if annoying nurse had been viciously killed 1 stars
9/15/00 Jeppe Very good - feelgood, excellent casting, nice twisty plot. 4 stars
9/13/00 PJ Freeman is perfect, the direction is great, and the comedy works big time, really funny. 4 stars
9/13/00 Jokko You guys are holding the marketing against it. That's too bad. Freeman rocks. Great script. 4 stars
9/13/00 Movie Freek sorry. best film of the year as far as i'm concerned :) 5 stars
9/11/00 tnt a very forgetable film 2 stars
9/10/00 Boy In The Designer Bubble There should be a nurse in all theaters to revive all comatose movie goers during this film 1 stars
9/10/00 chuck Where was the comedy? 1 stars
9/10/00 Austin its alright, this movie takes too long to get funny. 3 stars
9/10/00 jonnyA hee hee , 4 stars
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  08-Sep-2000 (R)


  23-Aug-2001 (M)

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