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copyright ©1999-2001

flick pick | Nurse Betty 2000
Directed by: Neil LaBute
Written by: John C. Richards [story + screenplay], James Flamberg [screenplay]
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Renee Zellweger, Chris Rock, Greg Kinnear, Aaron Eckhart
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
comedy, new release
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:
darkly comic, whimsical
The verdict: ½/ 5 the rating system explained

Plot synopsis Betty Sizemore is a waitress at a dingy Kansas coffee shop. Stuck in a lousy marriage to a no-good, mullet-sporting used car salesman named Del, Betty’s one source of escape from her sad little life is her favorite soap opera, A Reason to Love. On the evening of her birthday, her best friend backs out on plans due to lack of a babysitter, and Del ditches her for customers. Poor Betty’s left all alone. With remote in hand and tape in VCR, she settles in for an evening with her fictional love, Dr. David Ravel, chief heart surgeon at Loma Vista Hospital in the imaginary world of Reason. When Del returns home with his customers, Betty shuts the door and ignores them. Just as the show’s reaching a plot mini-climax, she hears a groan from the other room. She peeks out from a crack and sees her husband being scalped. The customers, it turns out, are actually hit men, and they’ve been sent after Del to retrieve some stolen drugs. The trauma of witnessing Del’s murder sends Betty straight into la-la land. Convinced she’s a character in A Reason to Live, "nurse" Betty sets out for Los Angeles in search of the long-lost love of her life, none other than the devastatingly handsome Dr. David Ravel, of course. Meanwhile, Del’s murderers aren’t about to let the one witness to their crime get away.

Review Part absurdist fantasy, part hip-violent comedy, Nurse Betty is The Wizard of Oz meets Pulp Fiction, with a fair amount of inverse The Truman Show thrown in. The film’s premise is inventive – lonely housewife turns her dull existence into the fabulous TV life of her dreams, happily trading reality for delusion in the process – and the acting is very, very good. Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock, as hitmen Charlie and Wesley, get an equal share of the funniest lines, but it’s Freeman’s character that gives the movie depth. As he and Wesley follow Betty across America, Charlie falls in love with his own imaginary vision of Betty, an ideal of true goodness and infinite grace. With his tired half-smile and sad, world-weary eyes, Freeman manages to make his killer more sympathetic and human than Betty herself, who, for the vast majority of the film, is just a complete nutter. It’s not Zellweger’s fault – she’s actually quite good in the role, and it’s nice to see her speak sans breathy whine for a change – but it’s hard to connect with Betty, who starts the movie off as pathetic before graduating to full-on insane, and whose version of happily ever after is just another Hollywood cliché. Which, come to think of it, may be exactly what LaBute (famed for the cold-hearted In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors) intended – the movie’s ambiguous tone lets the optimists feel good about Betty’s sweet fairy tale ending, while cynics can walk away thinking that they alone have seen the knowing wink behind the candy-coated façade of levity. — reviewed by Y. Sun 

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