Directed By: Neil LaBute
Starring: Renee Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock,
Greg Kinnear, Tia Texada, Aaron Eckhart, Crispin Glover
Rated: R (Language / Violence)
Running Time: 109 Min.
In another example that today's best films can't be easily classified, Renee Zellweger stars as Betty Sizemore in this wonderfully quirky thriller / comedy. 'Nurse Betty' is actually 'Waitress & Housewife Betty', who, after witnessing a brutal murder, becomes so distraught that she represses the memory and finds escape in the only thing that really comforts her; her favorite soap opera. Now, believing that the star of the show, George McCord, played by Greg Kinnear, is really Dr. David Ravell, from the soap opera, Betty leaves behind her small-town Kansas life, and heads for sunny California to find him. She also leaves behind an ongoing homicide investigation, and the hired killers, who have discovered that she witnessed the hit. After that, things start to get really complicated.
This movie had me smiling from beginning to end. The style and humor of the film is similar to Fargo and Clay Pigeons, so if you liked those films, you are sure to love this one. If Fargo or Clay Pigeons left you cold, then, well, draw your own conclusion.
Consistently inventive and clever, the writing in Nurse Betty is of a quality seldom seen in mainstream films. In fact, this movie received a very well deserved screenplay award at Cannes.
The standout performances come from Morgan Freeman and Renee Zellweger. Freeman gives his character much more depth that those seen in most comedies, and makes the role of the soon-to-be-retired Charlie distinctly his own. The only drawback to this was that Freeman's acting ability made Chris Rock's lack of same much more apparent. As for Renee Zellweger, I can say without a doubt that this is her finest performance. We're talking possible Oscar here, no kidding! Zellweger brings more range to the character of Betty than you're likely to see in three Meryl Streep films. Also appearing in the movie is the very definition of the word 'Quirky', Crispin Glover. Apparently he got tired of waiting for Tarantino to offer him a comeback role! Here he plays a sympathetic local newspaper reporter as only Crispin Glover is capable of playing. Greg Kinnear does a good job at playing basically the same character he has played in most of his films, but again, Nurse Betty is so well written that even type-casting can't bring it down.
The reason this film works so well is that Freeman and Zellweger, as well as most of the supporting cast, play their characters completely straight. This is not a 'mug for the camera' slapstick farce. Almost the entire cast maintains a serious tone, and this, combined with the comic situations in the story, is pure magic. Had anyone actively gone for big laughs, that magic would have disappeared.
The only unappealing aspect of this movie was that the 'F' word was completely overused by one of the characters. (Any guesses?) Keep in mind, this complaint comes from someone who gave South Park four stars. There was absolutely no reason for the unrelenting stream of obscenity, other than to ensure an 'R' rating, and there was already plenty of violence to warrant that. However, even unnecessary profanity was not enough to break this film's spell. I'll just assume the character in question was ad-libbing those lines, and the director, Neil LaBute, left them in for the sake of realism. I can't fault him for that!
So, if you like dark-comedy / thrillers that have the side-effect of leaving a big, silly grin on your face after the lights come up, you can't go wrong with Nurse Betty.