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Betty Sizemore (Renée Zellweger) is one of the millions addicted to the daytime soap, A Reason to Love, whose star is George McCord playing Dr Dave Ravell (Greg Kinnear). Betty is married to sleazy user Del (Aaron Eckhart), but fantasizes about Dr Ravell. When Del tries pulling a shady deal with Charlie (Morgan Freeman) and his sidekick Wesley (Chris Rock), things go bad to worse – and as Betty accidentally witnesses from the other room, Del is deleted. The shock sends her into a strange, fully aware coma, in which her fantasy about Dr Ravell becomes real – and blocking out the traumatic and bloody reality – she sets out to find her Dr Ravell, who she imagines is an ex-fiancé. Charlie and Wesley set off after her, thinking she has the drugs Del didn’t deliver. Things really unravel when Betty finds Dr Ravell.

Renée Zellweger pulls this picture out of the potential story mire, handsomely assisted by Kinnear, Morgan and Rock, taking us on a wild and funny ride in the backseat of her fantasy. Neil Labute, who shocked many with his debut feature, In the Company of Men, now manages to confound those who like their movies straight up. Nurse Betty is fun, but it does rely on us being liberal about the device he uses to make it fun: Betty’s condition, which the American Psychiatric Association calls a ‘fugue’ – a combination of amnesia and physical flight, in which the individual “flees from customary surroundings towards the assumption of a new identity.” Smalltown waitress Betty has an adventure in romantic lu-lu land which is at once disarmingly charming and horrifyingly dangerous, all in a state of shock. But there are some delicious moments, several involving the soap opera and many more involving Betty’s encounter with the object of her fantasy. Only the most careful acting and direction can pull these scenes off, and they all manage it hilariously – and with an edge. The script is as far fetched as her journey is far flung, but the cast make such endearing companions you can’t help enjoying it. It’s weird, alright, but then I like weird.
Andrew L. Urban

Neil LaBute's darkly comic and biting stamp is well inked on Nurse Betty, a delightful and outrageously quirky fable about a young suppressed housewife whose passions for her daily television soap allow her to live in her fantasy world. It's a wildly wonderful script from John C. Richards and James Flamberg, that never quite totally oversteps the mark, but often stretches the boundaries and takes us to the limits. It is a most improbable notion that is so sweetly executed: it is a twisted Cinderella story with a hit-man subplot and a spiffy spoof on soaps. Add to the mix a dream cast and a knock-out performance from Renée Zellweger with wonderful support from Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear, and you have a sure fire feel-good winner. Zellweger captures our hearts from the very beginning; it's an instant love affair – how can we resist? So real we can almost touch her, Zellweger imbues the essence of sincerity and convincingly portrays the dreamer Betty, who loses touch with reality, but keeps us the audience in her pocket throughout. She is Wizard of Oz's Dorothy with the essence of Doris Day and Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Greg Kinnear is perfect as the handsome soap star whose fantasy world collides with Betty's dream and reality. The scene when Betty introduces herself to her idol and very naturally becomes a character in her own fantasy is such a beautiful moment, when the borders of reality and fantasy are truly blurred. It's like being on a see-saw that swings from one reality to another. I absolutely loved this delicious, witty film that is oh so edgy, clever, funny and gloriously imaginative. Don't you dare miss it!
Louise Keller

Renee Zellweger's ability to make us believe in what she's doing on screen is the big plus of this uneven entry. Fresh from winning our hearts in Bridget Jones's Diary (although this was made well before it), Zellweger gives this comedy-drama a strong emotional centre that smooths over clumsy side-detail and an uncertain tone. It opens brightly at the Kansas greasy spoon diner where waitress Betty Sizemore pours coffee without averting her gaze from the daytime soap she's addicted to. We might want to scream "get a life" but she's got such a good heart and such a rotten husband, Del (Aaron Eckhart with a scary mullet) that we're prepared to accept her dreams of romance with TV doctor David Revell (Greg Kinnear). Much less attractive is the means by which Betty suffers her "fugue" (assumption of a new identity following severe fright) and "becomes" the doctor's long lost love. The graphic disposal of Del by hitman Charlie (Morgan Freeman) and sidekick Wesley (Chris Rock) introduces a nasty tone that doesn't sit well with the fantasy of Betty's flight to meet her great imagined love. For once Freeman seems miscast playing this erudite, philosophising killer who's on his last (yawn) job and the irritating Rock doesn't help as his partner whose manic behaviour is tiresome to say the least. Like Betty's mind this is something of a split personality picture. It's charming as Betty lands in Tinseltown and dazzles Dr Ravell/aka actor George McCord and cumbersome whenever the hitmen re-enter. Despite the wild variance from scene to scene Zellweger's appealing presence makes the price of admission worthwhile. It's also a treat to see the crazed eyes of Crispin Glover, Hollywood's most under-appreciated oddball, on screen again - even if he has too little to do as the newspaper reporter who tracks Betty to LA. Nurse Betty isn't the zany comedy you might be expecting but it has enough pleasing aspects to warrant a look.
Richard Kuipers

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Louise Keller reviews Nurse Betty in STREAMING VIDEO

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CAST: Morgan Freeman, Renée Zellweger, Chris Rock, Greg Kinnear, Aaron Eckhart


PRODUCER: Steve Golin, Gail Mutrux

SCRIPT: John C. Richards (story and screenplay), James Flamberg

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jean-Yves Escoffier

EDITOR: Joel Plotch, Steven Weisberg

MUSIC: Rolfe Kent


RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes




VIDEO RELEASE: February 6, 2002

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