Remember back when Neil LaBute had a good reputation? Ah, those were the good old days. Steve Miller of Cinema Steve is back and takes on his third feature - after In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors - the black comedy Nurse Betty.
Stay tuned throughout September for nuttiness and zaniness of all varieties - click here for the full lineup, and click here for prior entries.
Nurse Betty (2000)
Starring: Renee Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, Greg Kinnear, Tia Texada, and Crispin Glover
Director: Neil LaBute
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars
The shock of witnessing her husband's murder drives Betty (Zellweger) into a fantasy world where she believes she is the first love of her favorite soap opera character. She sets off for California to reunite with him. Meanwhile, two hired killers (Freeman and Rock) are tracking her, intending to eliminate the only witness to their crime and to recover drugs they believe she has stolen.
"Nurse Betty" is a sharply written comedy that delivers a multi layered message about how expectations and dreams drive us forward and shape our actions. Three of the film's major characters are in love with an ideal that has a physical counterpart but really doesn't exist outside their imagination. (Betty is in love with a kindhearted, romantic heart surgeon whose personality is very different from the actor who portrays him; Betty comes to represent the perfect woman to the hit man played by Morgan Freeman who falls in love with her picture as he tracks her westward; and Greg Kinnear comes to view Betty as his ticket to the next stage of his career, as he believes her to be a fantastically talented improv performer instead of a poor woman suffering from a dissociative disorder).
As is often the case when supported by a good script, every actor in this film is at their best. Even Chris Rock, who usually annoys the heck out of me, is funny at the right times and dramatic at the right times.
Of particular note in this stand-out cast is Morgan Freeman. While Freeman is playing the character he seems to play most often--a professional killer who is smarter and a little less psychotic than is typical for members of that profession--he is perhaps better here than any other of the times he's played it. While he usually manages to present a charming and somewhat sympathetic character no matter how amoral he ultimately turns out to be, his character here is one that you will find yourself having real sympathy for when all his hopes and dreams are shattered toward the end of the movie, and he ends up paying a heavy price for his life of violence.
This is one of those movies I sat down to watch with no idea what to suspect--the leads have all appeared in a wide variety of genres--but it was a pleasant surprise. The script is well written with not a single moment wasted, and every performer featured gives a top-notch performance. It's definitely worth checking out by anyone who enjoys a well-crafted romantic comedies. While "Nurse Betty" might not have a storybook ending, every character who deserves a happy ending gets one, and you're guaranteed to be left feeling warm and fuzzy as the end credits roll.
Tomorrow: Jason finishes this thing with The Shining.