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Nurse Betty (2000) star star star

Reviewed 2001-10-10: After Bridget Jones's Diary, I guess I was hungry for more Rene Zellweger. I wasn't disappointed. The story is about dreams and obsessions. Waitress Betty Sizemore (Zellweger), an addict to a hospital soap Second Look Reviewopera starring George McCord as Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear), lives in Kansas with Del (Aaron Eckhart) a philandering car dealer and emotionally abusive husband. It's Betty's birthday but she borrows the wrong car from her husband's lot. In the trunk are packages of drugs, which two criminals, Charlie (Morgan Freeman) and Wesley (Chris Rock), seek to recover. In the process, Wesley scalps Del and Charlie shoots him dead before they learn he knows nothing. But Bettie is in another room of the house, unknown to Charlie and Wesley, and witnesses the murder. She is so traumatized, she sinks into denial and drives to LA with the drugs in the trunk to rejoin her "ex-fianc."

This is a funny movie, and if you're not careful you'll miss the parallel characters: Freeman's Charlie, as he and Wesley pursue Zellweger's Betty, are both captive of their fantasies: Charlie's about Betty and Betty's about a TV character. Betty arrives in LA, becomes Nurse Betty, and finally meets up with George/David, not only does she not get a dose of reality, George and his producer-writer Lyla Branch (Allison Janney of TV's "West Wing") think it's an elaborate audition for the soap opera! The "audition" works, too, and George plays along with Betty's fantasy. But Charlie and Wesley finally catch up with Betty and fantasies explode as fast as bullets fly -- even as one fantasy is realized.

Morgan Freeman pulls off a daunting characterization. Greg Kinnear is right on target as an actor with ego barely under control. Some of the supporting performances were noteworthy: Crispin Glover (Back to the Future) as a reporter in Betty's hometown; and Tia Texada as the Latina, Rosa, who takes in Betty as a roommate in LA. The only downside about the film, in my opinion, was Chris Rock as Wesley. Some people think he's funny; I find Rock simply annoying. But Nurse Betty is funny and touching at the same time. I have great expectations for Renée Zellweger's future as an actress. She had me at "hello."

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.