|Greg Kinnear||Dr. David Ravell|
|Pruitt Taylor Vince|
|Directed by||Neil LaBute|
Wanted: Neil LaBute. Profession: movie director. Last seen skulking through the vicious back alleys of the human soul with ?Your Friends and Neighbors? and ?In the Company of Men?. Believed to have undergone a bizarre identity change operation, currently hiding out behind a new, stunningly unexpected image, the screwball comedy/fantasy ?Nurse Betty?. If you come upon this movie, do not contact authorities. Just see it.
?Nurse Betty? is more than a startling departure for the misanthropic LaBute. It?s a terrific movie. It?s full of sharp little touches, scenes of wit and gruesomeness and grace, flashes of insight, sweet passages of farce that suddenly suffuse with anger and blood, themes of identity confusion, romanticism, pragmatism, and truth. It?s built on funny writing, elevated by brilliant acting, and shaped by remarkably sure-handed direction.
Renee Zellweger (?Jerry Maguire?), whose appealing talent has flitted in and out of the shadows of some uneven projects, is perfect as the kewpie-eyed innocent Betty, a gingham-frocked Kansas coffee shop waitress who escapes the awfulness of her marriage to cretinous used car salesman Del (Aaron Eckhart) through her addiction to the TV soap opera ?A Reason to Love? and its dreamboat heart surgeon Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear). When she witnesses Del?s grisly murder at the hands of a couple of hit men (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock), she undergoes post-traumatic shock, blocks out the memory of the killing, and takes off for L.A. in the serene belief that she is a nurse and is going to be reunited with her former fianc?, David Ravell.
Freeman and Rock make a great pair. Rock is all twitchy young hard-eyed realism, with his mouth in the gutter and his heart somewhere below that. The awesome Freeman is marrow-melting philosophical gentleness, a Galahad of death who makes contract killing seem a gentleman?s profession. If you had to be rubbed out, you?d want him holding the gun. Zellweger plays the delusional Betty without coyness, with a sparkle in her eyes and purity in her soul. And Kinnear, who has perhaps the trickiest challenge of all, pulls off his dual characterizations of Dr. Ravell and actor George McCord in variations upon riffs of self-deception and self-awareness with the aplomb of a one-legged tight-rope walker. Also in the cast are the delicious Allison Janney (TV?s ?West Wing?) as the producer of ?A Reason to Love?, Tia Texada as Betty?s Hollywood roommate, and Crispin Glover and Pruitt Taylor Vince as hometown friends.
The terrain is loosely familiar ? a little ?Soap Dish?, a little ?Wizard of Oz?, a little of this and of that ? but the road ?Nurse Betty? traverses is never predictable. The Cannes prize-winning screenplay by John Richards (how can you not love a script by a name like that?) and James Flamberg is both funny and moving, and LaBute?s dyspeptic edginess informs it without drenching it in bile. ?I?m a garbage man of the human condition?, Freeman says. It?s a description that once fit LaBute, but may have to be erased from his file.
© Text 2006 Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be