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Overall Rating
3.53

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

13 reviews, 64 user ratings



Nurse Betty
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Surprising, captivating departure for LaBute."
5 stars

Every so often, usually at the end of a long dry spell, a movie comes along that cuts through the garbage and reminds you what movies are for. 'Pulp Fiction' was one of those films that stated loud and clear, "This is what you want, you just didn't know it until now"; 'L.A. Confidential' was another, and then, in fall 2000, there was 'Nurse Betty' -- a characteristically deceptive name for a movie of such surprising depth.

It left me more than a little rattled; with a director like Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, Your Friends & Neighbors) and a cast including Renée Zellweger, Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock, I expected to be amused. I didn't expect to be moved.

Zellweger stars as Betty Sizemore, a Kansas waitress married to a loutish car salesman named Del (LaBute regular Aaron Eckhart). The first reel or so is like the expected LaBute film in miniature: Del is thoroughly contemptible -- he cheats on Betty and forgets her birthday (he absently eats the birthday cupcake given to her at work) -- and he gets a swift comeuppance when he runs afoul of two hit-men, Charlie (Freeman) and Wesley (Rock), who accompany him to his house looking for some hidden drugs. Unbeknownst to everyone, Betty is also in the house, watching her favorite soap opera A Reason to Love at low volume. She eavesdrops on the men's business meeting long enough to see Del dispatched in a particularly gruesome way not seen much in movies outside of Westerns.

The entire sweetly optimistic movie grows out of the shock and horror of Del's murder, and Betty's reaction to it. Betty can't process it; somewhere in her mind, she puts a wall up against what she's seen, and is compelled to go to Los Angeles to find Dr. David Revell, a dashing doctor on A Reason to Love. Revell is played by a hack actor named George McCord, who in turn is played by the much more skillful Greg Kinnear. Like Robin Williams' medieval trip in The Fisher King, Betty's fantasy is literally escapist, a flight from ugly reality, and she latches onto the blank Dr. Revell as the embodiment of true love and happiness. Meanwhile, Charlie and Wesley hit the road in pursuit of Betty, and Charlie develops his own fantasy image of Betty -- her image draws him out of cynicism and makes this seasoned assassin believe that innocence is actually still possible.

It would be a mistake to think that LaBute wants us to laugh at Betty or Charlie for their delusions. This is the first movie he's directed from a script he didn't write (John C. Richards and James Flamberg did the screenplay, a prizewinner at Cannes), and it suggests a new direction for LaBute -- not sell-out, exactly, but generosity of spirit. Nurse Betty has an undertone of sadness and trauma even in the cheeriest of moments; we don't want Betty to snap out of her fugue state and remember everything, and when the actor George brings Betty to the set of A Reason to Love and asks her to act with the cast -- thinking that she's an ambitious actress with a great gift for improv -- Renée Zellweger's performance, which up till then had been soulfully touching, comes close to heartbreak.

LaBute treats his cast gently (except maybe for Eckhart, who's still paying for the creep he played in Company); he gets an atypical turn out of Chris Rock, not remotely his usual hyperactive self here -- I don't think he smiles once. Freeman, too, puts across Charlie's increasingly giddy attraction to Betty, sharing an imaginary dance with her at the Grand Canyon; left to his own devices, the old LaBute would never have allowed himself such a ... well, romantic moment.

I read 'Nurse Betty' as LaBute's movement from theater (which his previous two movies essentially were: filmed plays) to movies -- the escapist spell they can cast on us. Without an ounce of cleverness or hipness, the film quietly speaks volumes about why we go to movies, and then proves it.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=3915&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/11/07 12:44:20
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell snide portrait of mental illness 1 stars
5/23/08 PAUL SHORTT A WIERDLY UNEVEN, REPUGNANT, SOUR, DISSATISFYING EXPERIENCE 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
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Sep-2000 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  23-Aug-2001 (M)




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