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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 Stephen Groenewegen

"Surface Sparkle"
4 stars

Nurse Betty gives hope to soap-opera fans everywhere. Pointless addiction to a television show can change your life for the better, but it probably helps if a) you're having a miserable life to begin with; and b) you live in Kansas.

Living in Kansas is a pre-requisite for screenwriters John Richards and James Flamberg (who shared the Prix du meilleur scénario at Cannes earlier this year for Nurse Betty), to remind you of that other famous girl from Kansas who took a journey of self-discovery, Dorothy (from the L Frank Baum novels and The Wizard of Oz). The screenplay for Nurse Betty unravels almost mechanically, with calculated twists and turns; even measures of humour, pathos and shocks; and a cleverly orchestrated climax involving all the principal characters. It's very tightly constructed; but it also has some juicy character parts, to which the actors respond. They save the picture, by breathing in life and spontaneity to the construction, and helping us suspend our disbelief (and considerable suspension is required).

Betty Sizemore (Renee Zellweger) is a keen follower of A Reason to Love; she tapes and studies the episodes, and discusses them with her friends. But she has to keep it secret from her disapproving husband Del (Aaron Eckhart), who's not only a philandering redneck, but a used-car salesman and a drug dealer too. The shock of seeing Del brutally murdered (and be warned, it's gratuitously violent - Del is scalped) sets Betty to believing she is Nurse Betty, former fiancee of heart surgeon Dr David Ravell (Greg Kinnear), her favourite character on the soap. She sets off to LA in Del's car to win back Ravell, blissfully unaware that hidden in the boot are the drugs that Del's murderers (hitmen Charlie and Wesley, played by Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock) were sent to retrieve.

It's a winning set-up, and a change of style for director Neil LaBute from his previous films In the Company of Men (which I admired greatly) and Your Friends & Neighbors (which never got a cinema release in Australia). With a large budget, LaBute's no longer confined to cramped boardrooms and bedrooms; Nurse Betty is partly a road movie, with appropriately glorious outdoor cinematography from Jean-Yves Escoffier (nicely contrasted with the claustrophobic sets of A Reason to Love). Although Betty regains her life only by escaping it, Nurse Betty is not a crowd-pleasing fairy tale. Charlie and Wesley are fairly gentle for hitmen (and Richards and Flamberg have a ready explanation on hand for that), but the emotional climax of the film for Betty on the set of the soap (preceding the pile-up of characters in her apartment at the end) is not a comfortable moment for her or the audience.

Renee Zellweger is astutely cast as Betty, a daffy blonde with a "Doris Day thing happening". She makes Betty's determination comic, lightening the film's darker moments. Her Betty has so confused her make-believe world with reality that we feel protective of her and don't want to see her come to harm (which makes the ignominious treatment of Kinnear's character at the end seem mean, since his behaviour towards her was, for the most part, understandable). When Betty inevitably snaps out of her delusion, Zellweger adds further dimensions to a potentially limited character. And she reveals that likeable, brittle-looking-but-tough personality from Jerry Maguire that was absent when she played Meryl Streep's daughter in One True Thing.

I'm becoming a little tired of Morgan Freeman's dignified characters. Even here, playing a violent hitman, he's world weary and on his last case, and leaves most of the swearing to comedian Chris Rock as his offsider (who earned the most laughs from the audience I saw it with, watching a subtitled print in Paris). I couldn't understand how Greg Kinnear's bland Dr Ravell could inspire a devoted following, and there wasn't a great deal of difference between Kinnear's soap character and soap actor (unlike Zellweger, the shifts between his dual characters are so subtle, they're virtually imperceptible). Stealing scenes (as she so memorably did in 10 Things I Hate About You) was Allison Janney as A Reason to Love's writer/producer. Tia Texada is charming as Betty's new best friend, Rosa (though it's really an Hispanic variation on the gay neighbour and confidante who supports the heroine through the crisis and has no life of their own).

Zellweger generates such audience goodwill towards her that Nurse Betty demands a happy ending. LaBute, Richards and Flamberg fortunately don't begrudge us one. There's pleasure in watching such a meticulously designed and executed screenplay unfold, but any impression of more going on beneath Nurse Betty's sparkling surface is illusory.

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originally posted: 10/23/00 14:03:00
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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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