dir Neil LaBute
Delusions of grandeur. Betty (Zellweger) things she's a nurse engaged to a famous doctor. Er, guess again...
scr John C Richards, James Flamberg
with Renee Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, Greg Kinnear,
Aaron Eckhart, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Crispin Glover, Allison Janney,
Tia Texada, Elizabeth Mitchell, Harriet Sansom Harris, Laird Macintosh
Review by Rich Cline
With clear echoes of Being There, Neil LaBute's Nurse Betty is a darkly funny thriller about a person who loses touch with reality even as her life becomes increasingly unreal. It's a very clever story, intriguingly written and superbly played by its cast, even as it crosses a couple of lines and gets rather too violent.
Betty Sizemore (Zellweger) is a Kansas housewife, patiently putting up with her loutish husband (Eckhart). Then she witnesses his brutal murder at the hands of a pair of hit men (Freeman and Rock). But instead of grieving, she goes inside herself, adopting her favourite soap opera as her reality. So she heads off to Los Angeles to reunite with her love, Dr David Russell. But he's of course just an actor (Kinnear) who, when they meet, is taken with this tenacious, deluded, beautiful "fan". But the hit men are on her trail, as are a local cop (Vince) and journalist (Glover, who still looks about 15 after all these years!).
The characters are very well created in the script and performances, which allows us to suspend our disbelief at the film's more quirky plot turns and go along for the ride. Zellweger gets us on her side quickly; Betty is daft and out to lunch, but a true innocent we can really care about. Especially as we know she'll have to face the truth eventually. And with the exception of Freeman, the other actors basically play it for laughs, which is effective and funny even if it detracts from the film's serious centre. And the balance wobbles more with LaBute's trademark blackness, which appears in sporadic graphic grisliness that's so horrible it makes us catch our breath. That said, the film does hold together in an odd sort of way as it examines denial and self-realisation from various points of view. At least the mix of violence and humour keeps us on our toes.
[themes, language, some very strong violence] 18.Jul.00
UK release 1.Sep.00; US release 27.Oct.00
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"Zellweger plays Betty Sizemore, wife of Del Sizemore (Aaron Eckhart) of Sizemore Autos, in a small town in Kansas. Betty is the person liked by everyone, while her husband is messing around with his secretary. Betty is also hooked on a soap opera, Reason to Love, with a major crush on Dr Dave (Greg Kinnear). On her birthday, which her husband forgot, while watching a tape of her favorite soap, she also peeks through the door and sees her husband having a business deal go very bad. Her mind cannot handle the shock, and she confuses reality with her soap opera, so she walks out on her husband to find something better that is waiting out there for her. While she is heading to Los Angeles for a re-union with her fictional fiance, Dr Dave, the police are looking for her to answer questions about her husband. The bad guys are looking for her because she saw what they did ... yet no one knows where she has gone. This movie was funny - it won't be a major Oscar contender or anything - but it will make you laugh!" --Laurie T, Minneapolis.
© 2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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