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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.
Nurse Betty is really an interesting movie. I guess we all know someone
who is so convinced that the characters in a soap opera are real, that
you can't explain them with any means that these are just actors and
not real persons.
'Nurse Betty' isn't a nurse at all. In real life she is an ordinary housewife who works at a diner. To escape from her awful husband and the problems in her miserable life, she has become a very dedicated fan of a soap opera. After she witnessed her husband being murdered, she goes into some kind of a shock and she loses all grip on reality. She thinks she's in love with one of the characters from the soap opera, a doctor, and decides that she'll visit him and start a family with him. The hit men however think that she knows too much and go after her to kill her.
As I already said, the subject is quite recognizable (if you leave the professional hit men and the murder out of it) and the movie was funny. The story was well directed and the actors did a fine job. It had everything I always want to see when watching a comedy. I give it a 7.5/10.
Neil LaBute takes a dramatic turn from his first two films, In The Company
of Men & Your Friends and Neighbors, with this funny and original
thriller/comedy/road movie. When Betty (Renee Zellwegger) witnesses the
brutal murder of her no-good husband (Aaron Eckhart), she develops a bizarre
sort of amnesia, and flees in his car, not knowing that there is large stash
of drugs in the trunk. Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock are the hit men who
What Betty is chasing, besides a new beginning (although she can't remember the old life) is her beloved, Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear). Only problem: Dr. David isn't real, he's a soap opera character on the show `A Reason To Love' and he's really an egotistical actor named George McCord.
To say any more regarding what develops would be too much, but Nurse Betty is certainly original. Its hit men are, like the hired killers of Pulp Fiction, are violent yet philosophical, its take on soap operas terrific spoof material, and its acting is the best feature of all. This has to be one of the best cast films in recent years. Renee Zellwegger is perfect for Nurse Betty, with the constant gleam in her eye that pushes her in her quest. Morgan Freeman brings his constant state of grace to the role of a killer at the end of his career, and Chris Rock is his partner, a man of rage and great impatience. Greg Kinnear is at his comic best as the vain actor/soap opera doctor. There are also great supporting performances from actors such as Emmy-winner Allison Janney (The West Wing), Harriet Sansom Harris (Frasier's agent Bebe Glazer), and Kathleen Wilhoite (Chloe on ER). Actually, the supporting cast is a Who's Who of television best character actors.
A unique film that is funny one moment and chilling the next, Nurse Betty is a mix of great acting, casting, and a terrific screenplay.
People keep asking "is this a romantic comedy?", "a black comedy?", "a
violent thriller?". If you're the kind of person who is not comfortable
with a film unless you can safely store it into one of five or six comfy
little categories, move on (or as Jack Black says, "go to the mall!"). To
quote Roger Ebert, "audiences lobotomized by one-level stories may find this
confusing". It's really a sweet little comedy that breaks a number of
'sweet little comedy' rules, by introducing real terror and a few (count 'em
- 3) scenes with a bit of gore. Like Jonathan Demme's minor masterpiece,
SOMETHING WILD, we are taken out of a safe little world (Kansas, literally)
to another dimension. This dimension is part Oz and part grit. Oz is the
fantasy life of the main characters (for Zellweger it's Kinnear, the
fictional doctor on a soap opera, and for Freeman it's Zellweger, who he
sees as a sort of modern Doris Day). Intertwined with the fantasy is the
frighteningly realistic fact that Freeman and his son Wesley, are hit men.
What hit men do ain't pretty. I'm personally relieved that this is not a
cute comedy with 'widdle cuddwly' hit men who are really not so bad because
after all, their violence is bloodless: we can overlook what they do.
UH-UH! We are not left off the hook that easily! On the other hand, Morgan
Freeman is an authentically charming guy, and in many ways, this film
contains some of the most sparkling romance (real and/or imagined) that's
been seen on the screen in a long time! This indeed is a film that breaks
many conventions while celebrating others, but be forewarned, this is not a
safe, cuddly film. You're not in Kansas anymore!
LaBute's 'Nurse Betty' tells the story of a young housewife (and part-time waitress) in search of the man of her dreams. Sounds like another fluffy romance, no? Not quite! Her adulterous trash of a husband is scalped. Two hit men, a father who's about to retire and his son, are after her (the father happens to be in love with her). The man of her dreams is a character from a soap opera...she travels half the country just to be with him. Little does she know that it's only an illusion. Yes, it is a bizarre little comedy but fun nonetheless. Zellweger proves to be the perfect choice to play Betty. She delivers a very nuanced, comic and moving performance. Has Morgan Freeman ever gone wrong? He's just laugh out loud hilarious. Chris Rock too takes a chance playing the villain and does a fine job. Greg Kinnear and the supporting cast that includes Tia Texado, Allison Janney, Aaron Eckhart, Kathleen Wilhoite and Crispin Glover are all good. the soundtrack is beautiful and very romantic. It just adds to the surreal mood of the film. A lot of the film takes place on the road giving us glimpses of the beautiful American landscape and an adventurous feel. Towards the end, there's a beautiful scene between Morgan Freeman and Renee Zellweger (well I can't say what it's about without giving spoilers) which is the real turning point in Betty's life and the way that scene was presented amidst the chaos in the next room is amazing. 'Nurse Betty' is a sweet film that dares to go against the usual standards of American comedy. There are some very graphic scenes of violence and there's the element of suspense as the father and son track down Betty. Yet, it manages to stand as an adventurous comedy that is uplifting and brings a smile.
There's much to enjoy here if you like movies because of the actors. I was
attracted to this film because of Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock who always
deliver, but there's also great acting from the rest of the cast, most
notably Zellweger but Kinnear is also perfectly casted as is the rest, no
exceptions. All a joy to watch.
And then there's the offbeat plot with a woman living in a fantasy of being a soap character that takes over her life and makes her forget that she was just a waitress in Kansas with a cheating husband who got killed in front of her eyes by hitmen. Sometimes I thought the movie was thrown way off balance with the sudden bloodshed but most of the time it was a very warm film. It was the wonderful, strange mixture between cold reality and movielike fantasy that made it interesting. It's good for a couple of dosed laughs but I would classify this as a tragic comedy with a relatively happy and satisfying ending, tho it may be cheap to some. Funny thing is, as life can be stranger than film, all in the movie could in theory happen! And the focus is still very much on human emotions so in that way the movie is still down to earth.
Better than I expected, this film rules, can't get enough of Morgan or Chris but really everybody did a great job making this film.
8 out of 10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not sure why I picked for a borrow from mom for "Nurse Betty". I
think just because I had heard a little bit of this movie. But I'm glad
I did. "Nurse Betty" is an original and clever movie that has humor and
a darker side.
This was one of Renee's first big one's before hitting it major in Hollywood. I can see why, she is an incredible actress. The scene where she finally realizes what had happened and she's on the set of her favorite soap opera, you can see pain, confusion, fear, and embarrassment on her face. Just to let you in on the movie, she plays Betty. A shy and insecure woman who stands by her abusive husband, she's a waitress, and is in love with soap operas, especially one where a certain cute doctor, Dr. Dave Revell. When she happens to see her husband's murder accidentally in separate room, the murders she notices are two customers she just had, Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock. She then just looses her mind and leaves town after talking to he police and says she needs to find her former fiancée, Dr. Dave Revell. So, she travels along the country to California to find Dr. Revell, and wants a job as a nurse to work with Dave, she's seen the show so many times, somehow she's just awesome at being a nurse when she saves a woman's brother. Despite everyone telling her that she is delusional, she just looks at them like as if they were the crazy one's. When she meets the actor who plays Dave Revell, George(his real name) thinks she's just a crazy fan trying to get on the show. She just looks at him with confusion and believes that he and her belong together.
Renee was terrific, she was so believable on loosing her mind in the movie. She has come such a long way, and wither you want to admit it or not, she's adorable and a great actress.
Morgan Freeman plays one of the assassin's, Charlie, who is the father of the two. He is so charmed and smittened by Betty and while chasing her around the country, he becomes almost just infatuated with Betty to the point where he almost falls in love with her. He and his son Wesley must find Betty when they find out she was there at the murder scene and could give away their identities. When Charlie sees Betty and catches her finally, she's scarred at first, but calms down and they know they have a real connection. It was a beautifully played scene, my opinion is that Morgan gave a stronger performance. He's just great.
A surprisingly decent performance by Chris Rock, the son, Wesley. He is so "gun"-ho about just getting the job done in a rush and taking care of business. I loved his comedic performance at the end where he and the gang he's holding hostage by gun point are just watching the soap opera's together. Classic. "Nurse Betty" is a great movie that I'd recommend for a good laugh and just in all a nice honest little movie I think anyone could enjoy.
This is an adorable, if somewhat edgy, comedy from a clever and witty
script by John C. Richards, crisply directed by the very talented Neil
LaBute, proving that he can handle comedy just as adroitly as he can
the art house movie.
Renée Zellweger stars as Betty Sizemore, a sort of Doris Day of the 21st century, a waitress from Kansas whose fantasy life centers around Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear), star of a TV soap opera called, "A Reason to Live," to such a fanatical degree that she has memorized lines from the show after watching the tapes over and over again. (This will come in handy later on.)
Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock play a father-son team of cocaine-dealing hit men who ignite the premise of the movie by murdering Betty's slimy used car salesman husband, played by Aaron Eckhart, who starred in In the Company of Men (1997), also directed by Neil LaBute. Chris Rock is a comedic psychopath, and Freeman a fatherly murderer whose favorite dictum is "three in the head, you know they're dead." One of the amazing and characteristic things about Morgan Freeman is that even while playing a professional criminal, he manages to sound like the wisest, gentlest man you ever knew.
True, the plot relies heavily on co-incidence (Betty copping the keys to the Buick that just happens to have the goods in the trunk), precise timing (meeting Dr. David and entourage at exactly the right moment), and some questionable psychology (Betty's partial and convenient amnesia). But such contrivances should be written off as poetic license and ignored. After all, who would criticize Shakespeare for the tortured plots of his comedies? More significantly, what makes this work is the cleverness of the plot melded well with the personalities of the characters (while gently satirizing them), and some very funny dialogue. My favorite line is when Freeman, looking gravely at a picture of the disappeared little miss Nurse Betty, soberly remarks to Rock, "We may be dealing with a cunning, ruthless woman here." I wonder, could it be that some of the pseudonymous (and humorless) reviewers who trashed this movie here and at IMDb are jealous, out-of-work screen writers?
An observation and a question: Renée Zellweger has the kind of on-screen presence to delight the most jagged heart. And who really is the reigning queen of contemporary filmland comedy, Zellweger or Reese Witherspoon? They are both brilliant. Witherspoon is a little more over the top while Zellweger is more impish. It would be interesting to see them trade roles, say, Zellweger as goody-goody A-student Tracy Flick in Election (1999) and Witherspoon as Nurse Betty. Too bad something like that can't be done.
Incidentally, the song, "Ca Sera, Sera" heard in the background won an academy award for best song in the Hitchcock thriller, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), starring James Stewart and Doris Day. The reason it reappears here is not entirely clear, but the resemblance of the wonderfully naive Nurse Betty to the on- and off-screen Doris Day (who also had a hit recording of "Ca Sera, Sera,") goes beyond the strawberry blond hair to a kind of irrepressible innocence. In Nurse Betty, however, the Doris Day world of white picket fences and monogamy is given a contemporary spin. Although this is to some extent a romantic comedy, it is one in which the answer to the question, Who gets the girl? is one never seen in a Doris Day flick.
Bottom line: if you can watch this without laughing old loud and crying some real tears, you need to get your hard drive fixed.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
Nurse Betty (2000)
This is a sleeper, a dark comedy with enough inventive twists to call to mind The Truman Show but with a greater sense of reality to hold it down. Renee Zellweger is flawless as the naive, sweet, but utterly detached young woman named Betty who is addicted to a soap opera called "A Reason to Love." This seems sweet enough, but her husband is a jerk (totally) and things start to spiral, and get dizzy, as reality even for the viewer starts to shift ground.
Not that you are ever confused about what is happening or who the good guys are. The good guys are not Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock, for sure, as this unlikely and comedic father and son duo get involved, incidentally at first, in Betty's strange inner and outer life. A chase of sorts ensues, the soap opera becomes reality, and then reality becomes soap opera. And it's really hilarious and inventive and fast paced.
Is it a total work of genius? Probably not. Maybe Charlie Kaufman would have added another twist in there (I'm not sure how), and certainly some of the side characters could have seemed less cardboard, or less awkward as actors. But Zellweger is unbelievable (really, your jaw might drop at how convincing she could play her mental blindness, and her awakening, of sorts). And Morgan Freeman is his usually convincing and engaging self.
The utterly disgusting violence of one 20 second scene might turn off some viewers near the beginning, but if you can keep watching, the movie gets better from there. Much better.
As Betty Sizemore (Renee Zellweger) secretly watches her tyrannical husband
Del (Aaron Eckhart) being murdered by the vengeful hitmen Charlie and
(Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock), her bruised sense of reality becomes
totally immersed in the fantasy world of her favorite soap opera. In a
of complete denial and delusion, Betty escapes both physically and mentally
from her unsatisfied, small town life to search for "Dr. David Ravell"
Kinnear), the handsome and loving hero of "A Reason to Love", a soap opera
set in a hospital and produced in Los Angeles. Immune to reality, Betty
arrives in L.A. and becomes "Nurse Betty" as she tries to belong in the
hospital world of her dream lover. Meanwhile, the angered Charlie and
track Betty down, convinced she is a dangerous witness who also knows about
their compromising dealings with Del.
Nurse Betty creates comedy and suspense by contrasting its main character's extreme innocence and optimism with the evident hypocrisy and violence that surround her. By clearly defining the protagonist's difficult life, Nurse Betty justifies its character's tendency to turn away from reality. Thus, while offering a comment about the popularity of the soap opera within the film, Nurse Betty also makes a comment regarding the widespread addiction to television and its celebrities. In addition, Nurse Betty benefits from the effective manipulation of its protagonist's mental state, particularly in those scenes where she cannot distinguish between "Dr. David Ravell", the character, and George McCord (Greg Kinnear), the actor who plays him. Betty's incapacity to recognize George as an actor leads to funny misunderstandings, which stress the magnitude of her delusional state. However, in spite of these successes, Nurse Betty suffers from the troubling characterizations through which the narration evolves. For example, while Charlie and Wesley are consistently portrayed as a comical pair, the brutality of their actions undermines any sense of appreciation or acceptance the viewer might have initially experienced. Similarly, although the initial scenes establish Del as a detestable man, the humiliation and violence he experiences with his murderers surpass all the humiliation and violence he caused his wife Betty.
Finally, toward the end of the film, Charlie undergoes awkward transformations as he develops an obsession for Betty; an obsession which results in noble feelings of love, and which ultimately destroys him. Consequently, since the characters' roles as victims lack consistency, the story's victimization processes seem random and unsubstantial. All in all, Nurse Betty's indeterminacy --rather than creating suspense-- weakens its characters and pollutes its plot.
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