Nurse Betty D.O.A.

Nurse Betty is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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Some films, such as the newly-released The Cell and genre pioneer

2001: A Space Odyssey, make very little visual sense. Bizarre cuts,

random imagery and audacious color schemes are oohed and aahed over, even

while the most freaked-out viewers are bored out of their minds (unless

they're on LSD or just hasn't had any food in a few weeks). Yet, while it

is almost heresy to deride the entire mess as just an easy way to seem

arty, films which substitute visual chaos for scriptural cacophony are

almost universally derided.

Nurse Betty, a movie with a script probably made by

shredding about three or four movie scripts and taping the pieces together,

is one such film. Just as babies, flashing lights and outer space are all

acceptable visual images in a movie, gang-banging thugs on the search for

stolen drugs, a woman with a psychotic break and soap opera stars are

acceptable plot devices in film. However, while the big, flashing baby in

2001 will be, for better or worse, indelibly etched in the mind of

the popular conscience, Renee Zellweger's soap-opera-obsessed, abused wife

who has lost touch with reality and is being hunted by two hit men will

probably fade out rather than burn away. It's a bit of a pity, as there are

pieces of a decent movie hiding behind the mess.

The wacked-out wife in question is Betty, a sad but perky lady

who works at a diner and obsessively watches the daytime TV drama, "A

Reason to Live," starring the attractive and charismatic Dr. David Ravell

(Greg Kinnear). Betty longs to be a nurse, a career she once trained for

until she met her husband and he managed to halt her education. Said

husband, Del (Aaron Eckhart), is a car dealer who screws his secretary and

has some shady side business. Unfortunately for both Betty and Del, his

business catches up with him when he brings two men to his house to

purchase stolen drugs.

Betty is in the other room, watching a tape of "A Reason to

Live" after her plans to go out that night (it's her birthday) fall apart.

Del doesn't know that and Betty doesn't want to get involved, so she turns

the volume down. Unfortunately, the two buyers, Charlie (Morgan Freeman)

and Wesley (Chris Rock), are the people from whom Del stole his drugs. The

disgusting end result is that Betty gets to watch her husband get scalped

(literally). The trauma of the whole thing causes her to sort of lose it,

and as she watches the television she refabricates the world to a better

equation. A few days later she writes her dead husband a note detailing her

intentions of leaving him, gets in a car with a whole lot of stolen drugs

hidden in the trunk and takes off to go marry her supposed ex-fiancé, Dr.


The plot then meanders in circles unworthy of description. Of

course, the hit men are after the drugs and Betty is searching for her

supposed ex-fiancé. The movie tries to make some sort of incomprehensible

parallel between the cross-country trips of the two groups, each searching

for their own ideal creation. This is furthered by Charlie's increasing and

unexplained fascination with Betty, based solely on a few photos he has of

her. It's trash like this that keeps the good movie lurking beneath

Nurse Betty's skirt from showing up. In between weighty silences are

some really top comedy bits, mostly coming from the duo of Freeman and

Rock. Unfortunately for them, they have to break character to make them

come across, as the script casts them as nothing more than cheap knockoffs

of the Jackson/Travolta hit men duo in Pulp Fiction. With superb

timing and perfect delivery, they actually manage to pull garner quite a

few laughs.

Unfortunately there are few other laughs in the movie, save

when Dr. Revell meets Betty and thinks she is someone trying really hard to

get a job, rather than her just being insane. He goes on with the notion

for quite a while, eventually coming off as a bit of a dick. The rest of

the movie - and there's a lot of it - is just pondering silences and jokes

that don't come off.

With so much talent trying so hard to make Nurse Betty a

good film, you would think it would be. But the mismatching of plots,

reused clichés and boring direction by Neil LaBute (creator of that other

yawner, Your Friends and Neighbors) makes a mess of it all.


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