Directed By: Neil LaBute
Screenplay By: J.C. Richards, James Flamberg
Story By: John C. Richards
Produced By: Steve Golin, Gail Mutrux
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Renée Zellweger, Chris Rock, Greg Kinnear, Aaron Eckhart, Allison Janney
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 112 minutes
Review Date: July 30, 2010
Nurse Betty feels like a script the Farrelly brothers could have penned. It’s absurd, intriguing, uncomfortable, awkward, yet satisfying. Meet Betty Sizemore (Renée Zellweger), a waitress in a small Kansas town married to a two-timing husband, Del (Aaron Eckhart). Betty’s pleasant, kind, warm, and obsessed with the soap opera A Reason to Love. It appears everyone in this small Kansas town cannot get enough of this soap, including Wesley (Chris Rock). Wesley and his father, Charlie (Morgan Freeman), are hitmen in a sense. They come a knocking the minute someone takes that shady loan or makes that too-good-to-be-true car deal. So naturally, they’re in town looking for Del, who has a Cadillac with some valuables in it.
When Del doesn’t give them the information Wesley and Charlie need to find the car, they begin torturing him by slowly scalping him. Betty is just down the hall, deeply immersed in the doings of Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear) from A Reason to Love. When she pokes her head out the door and witnesses the scalping and killing of her husband, she goes into complete shock, seeking solace from Dr. Ravell. This in turn sends her into a coma-like state, making her believe she is part of the show and the one true love of Dr. Ravell.
So Betty takes the Cadillac and drives to California in search of Loma Vista, Dr. Ravell, and a nursing job (she’s had no experience thus far). Along the way, she meets some great people, none of whom have the heart to tell her that her fiancé, Dr. Ravell, is about as real as Loma Vista. Eventually, Betty comes to meet Dr. Ravell (also known as George in reality) at a charity event. Her act, misinterpreted by those around her as a Method audition, is stupendous and even receives praise from A Reason to Love’s producer, Lyla Branch (Allison Janney). Remember, Betty seriously believes she has lived her life in this soap opera and that she and Dr. Ravell share all of these memories.
When Betty bolts with the Cadillac, Wesley and Charlie begin their cross-country search to find her and the car. Along the way, Charlie begins to have visions of Betty guaranteed to leave the viewer extremely uncomfortable. He fantasizes about her, and eventually, Wesley catches on and wonders if they’re really in search of the Cadillac or just trying to find Betty.
Betty Sizemore’s character is one all girls, women, and ladies can relate to. We’ve all been there, daydreaming about that movie character (Noah from The Notebook, anyone?), that singer (John Mayer, Justin Timberlake, and the Jonas Brothers), or any other celebrity (enter anyone from any Ocean’s movie). So naturally, you will sympathizes with Betty, who just witnessed a brutal murder of her jerk of a husband. Who wouldn’t want to seek a life in another world?
A personal favorite character throughout the film is Roy Ostery (Crispin Glover). He’s one of the few people looking out for Betty in Kansas and starts the search once she leaves town. He gets nervous and shy around her, much like George McFly did with Lorraine in Back to the Future. I think that’s why I was so drawn to him, knowing that he brought a piece of McFly to the role.
The film feels realistic once the media catches wind of this “Nurse Betty” character. In a world where just about anybody can earn a spot on the six o’clock news, you won’t find it highly unlikely that the U.S. becomes captivated by Nurse Betty. The film ends on a high note, leaving you continually curious about the new life reclaimed for Betty.
Note: production designer Charles Breen used The Wizard of Oz as an inspiration throughout the film. I found myself intrigued and after watching a second time, tried to pick up some of these subtle clues. As of yet, I’ve only been able to make the link of Kansas between the two films.
Hanna Soltys is a green tea drinker and film critic living in Chicago.