Martin Blank is a professional assassin. He is sent on a mission to a small Detroit suburb, Grosse Pointe, and, by coincidence, his ten-year high school reunion party is taking place there at the same time.
A Kansas City waitress with dreams of becoming a nurse becomes delusional after seeing her no-good car salesman husband murdered. Becoming delusional from shock, she becomes convinced that she is the former fiancée of her soap opera idol. What she also believes is that the soap opera is real and goes to LA to find the hospital where he works as a cardiologist. Meanwhile, her husband's murderers are searching for the drugs stolen by her husband and, as luck would have it, they are stored in the trunk of the car she drove off in. Freeman, an aging hit man planning his retirement after this job, also becomes delusional about the woman he is tracking. Written by
John Sacksteder <firstname.lastname@example.org>
With Nurse Betty (2000), acclaimed indie film-maker Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, Your Friends & Neighbors) makes his breakthrough into the big-budgeted (Betty's $24 million as opposed to Company's measly $25,000), mainstream realm -- and yet remains true to his roots. While his cast is now composed of A-list Hollywood names (Renee Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, and stand-up comedian Chris Rock), his material remains just as bizarre and quirky as his first two features, proving that he just may be the next big thing. Nurse Betty is one of the darkest comedies to be advertised towards a mainstream audience in years, and considering its moderate box office and critical success, perhaps moviegoers weren't as dumb and brainwashed as we though they were. The story follows (both figuratively AND literally) a naive waitress (Zellweger) who has fallen in love from afar with a handsome soap star (As Good As It Gets's Greg Kinnear) but is trapped in a loveless marriage to a slimy car dealer (Aaron Eckhart, who made his big-screen debut in Company). When her husband is gruesomely murdered by two hitmen (Freeman and Rock), she's sent into shock and obliviously sets out for Hollywood to meet her object of affection -- unaware that he's only an actor. When Freeman and Rock discover that the car she took contains 10 kilos of cocaine, they hit the road as well and outrageousness ensues. Fans of LaBute's previous work might have a hard time figuring out how this could possibly be the same guy who directed In the Company of Men -- a tragicomedy about two cruel sexist pigs who play a practical joke on a deaf co-worker --, but when you think about it, the connection is rather clear: in Company, a vulnerable woman is unaware that she is being ruthlessly taken advantage of. In Betty, a vulnerable housewife is unaware that the man she's chasing thinks her genuine adoration is nothing more than a joke. Some might begin to wonder if LaBute is really some sort of misogynist himself -- considering that his recurring theme involves the downfall of innocent women. But personally, I think he's coming to the defense of the fair sex and dealing far more harshly with the abusers in his pictures than the abused. One of the many charms of this film is that it's absurdity is full-fledged: most directors, when handling a script such as this one, would leave the story at two hitmen chasing a woman chasing a dream. But LaBute knows better, and has one of the hitmen (Freeman) fall obsessively for Betty as well. This was an interesting role for Freeman to take, because it allowed him to play off of his trademark `this-is-the-last-time' character (see Unforgiven, Se7en, and 1998's stinker Hard Rain); the supporting cast also includes the likes of famed weirdo Crispin Glover (Back to the Future), Allison Janney, and `Mad About You's Kathleen Wilhoite. The script, written by first-timers John C. Richards and James Flamberg, is deliriously over-the-top (honestly: have you ever seen a comedy -- or ANY movie, for that matter -- in which a man is scalped in his own dining room?). You could argue that the ending is a little too perfect, but it's really not worth denying everything that's great about the film for one trivial complaint. If Nurse Betty is any sign of what LaBute has in store for us next, you can bet that I'll be lining up for whatever he decides to follow it up with.
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