Nurse Betty (2000)
“She needs to see a doctor.”
Director: Neil LaBute
Cast: RenÃ©e Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock
Synopsis: Comedy about a widow’s post-traumatic obsession with a soap star.
Neil LaBute, the writer-director of such caustic works as In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors, unsuccessfully tries to lighten up but, like the viewer (this one, anyway), he seems to find it hard going before finally losing his way completely. Renee Zellweger plays Betty, a super-nice waitress married to a mullet-wearing slob called Del (Aaron Eckhart) who runs a used car lot. We first meet Del nailing his secretary to the office couch so, as with all the characters here, we pretty much know exactly what sort of person he is before he‘s spoken a word. Anyway, Del’s involved in some murky business, and he hasn’t been entirely honest with his partners, resulting in a visit from philosophical gunman Morgan Freeman and his much younger partner, played by Chris Rock. Betty silently witnesses these two scalping her husband before shooting him dead and promptly suffers some dissociative trauma that has her believing she’s a character in her favourite soap, A Reason to Love.
Before you know it, Betty’s on her way to Los Angeles to reunite with her lost love, and from there an already far-fetched story tips over into ludicrousness. Admittedly, this is supposed to be some kind of fairy tale, but when its determination to be quirky leaves it only loosely anchored to reality, and it relies on its central character’s mental instability to drive the plot, I feel kind of uneasy about it all. A typically assured performance from Freeman, and a surprisingly decent one from Rock are the only positives this has going for it.
(Reviewed 26th February 2012)