Film Commentary [9-17-00]
Simmering in delusions - - Nurse Betty
Genre: Comedy
Grade = B+

Betty Sizemore (Renee Zellweger) is not a nurse. She is a waitress in a diner in a small town in Kansas. She is also a fanatic fan of the TV soap opera A Reason to Love. Her husband Del owns a small third-rate used car dealership and is a total low-life, cheating on her with his secretary (a former waitress from the diner). He has stolen drugs from the mob and attempts to sell it to Charlie (Morgan Freeman) and his associate Wesley (Chris Rock). However, they work for the mob and they want the stuff back. They eventually scalp and shoot Del to death. Betty witnesses the whole thing and lapses into a fugue state from the shock of it. In order to cope with the gruesome scene she witnessed, she suppresses the memory of the murder and enters a fantasy world - the world of A Reason to Love. She decides to run away from her husband (whom she still believes is alive) to go back to her fantasy former finance Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear - As Good as it Gets) from the show. She hops in the Buick and heads to LA to get a job as a nurse at his hospital.

Before Del died, he said their stuff was in the trunk of the Buick. After looking through all the Buicks at Del's lot, Charlie and Wesley decide that Betty must have it and decide to chase after her. They impersonate cops and interview her friends and family to try and determine where she has gone. Charlie gets a hold of several photographs of her and spends most of his time looking at them. This leads to a major subplot where Charlie becomes infatuated with her, believing that Betty in the ideal girl-next-door woman with and ‘Doris Day-ish' quality.

Meanwhile, Betty arrives in LA and applies for a nurse's position at ‘the' hospital - the same one that is used in the opening credits of her soap opera. She is denied a position - namely because she has no references or proof of a nursing degree. On the way out, she saves a patient in an ambulance in the middle of shoot out and ends up with a job and a place live with the sister of the man she saved. The sister soon discovers the truth about her when Betty explains why she's in LA, namely - she's nuts. We follow her adventures and those of Charlie and Wesley as they track her across the country.

This is a black comedy from director Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men) that is surprisingly entertaining for such light fare. It is also a surprising that he would take on such a project as most of his film are far more dark and cynical. The film is relatively character driven, and by that I mean that the film is populated by interesting characters combined with performances that surpass the average plot and dialog. Morgan Freeman dominates the film with in performance of Charlie, his philosophy on life and his growing infatuation with Betty - "Betty, chase after a soap opera star? No, that's not her!" Chis Rock basically plays himself and has his own moments.

Renee Zellweger provides an great performance as Betty, pertraying her as oozing with sweetness and naive innocence, despite her insanity. One surprise in the film was the performance of Kristin Glover (Back to the Future) as Roy, the local reporter who never ceases to believe in her. Glover is one of my favorite character actors as most of his performances, as well as he himself, are bizarre. He tones it down for this film and perhaps we will see some more of him in more major films in the future. Greg Kinnear (nominated for best supporting actor for As Good as it Gets) is adequate as the soap opera doctor who is the object of Renee's fantasy desires. However, his performance is not that inspiring.

The movie is consistently funny and the story has at least some semblance of spontenaity that makes a nice little entertaining film. Recommended.

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