Soaps, sanity, sex and slapstick

By Nicole Kobie

Symptoms: a crazy plot filled with obsessed characters and psychotic situations. Diagnosis: one insanely hilarious movie.

Nurse Betty stars the ensemble cast of Morgan Freeman, Renee Zellweger, Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear, all of whom have never been funnier. This is a character-based film; no one character is as stupid, smart, or perfect as they seem to others or to the audience. What makes Nurse Betty a sane way to spend $11 is the comedy doesn’t stop with the characters. It’s a sitcom through and through, including well executed slapstick and repeatable one-liners.

Most of Nurse Betty is funny enough to induce a smile or a gentle chuckle. There are a few disturbing gems, though, that will even have viewers with no sense of humour laughing themselves crazy.

Betty, a waitress in a small town, is madly in love with Dr. David Ravell, the dashing, considerate, all-round perfect star of her favourite daytime soap, A Reason to Love. When her husband, a shady used car salesman, crosses some drug dealers, Betty witnesses his murder. Seeing the disgusting murder in her dining room while watching a tape of her soap on television causes Betty to enter a state of shock. Believing she’s "Nurse Betty," Dr. Ravell’s ex-fiancée, Betty travels from small-town Kansas to Hollywood in search of her one true love, not realizing he doesn’t exist.

However, the two hit men responsible for murdering Betty’s husband start searching for her. The father and son team, played by Freeman and Rock, are hilarious and not only for Rock’s one-liners. Freeman’s calm, collected Charlie is a perfect foil to Rock’s jumpy, impressionable Wesley. Charlie becomes obsessed with Betty, believing she’s something she’s not. Wesley’s main goal becomes meeting a pretty soap star, until he sees her in a lesbian scene. Straggling far behind Betty, they do eventually catch up but not until after a disturbing trip to the Grand Canyon.

Kinnear is charming as usual as George, the actor playing Dr. Ravell. This is a far cry from his performance in As Good As it Gets; George is as twisted as everyone else. Strangely, he takes

advantage of Betty’s condition. When things don’t go as planned, he loses his temper and soon all his co-actors think he’s crazy too.

Nurse Betty begins as a simple situational slapstick comedy, one that blurs the lines between reality and dreamland, but only for the characters. It ends as a Wizard of Oz-style coming of age story: the bubbly girl from Kansas travels to a different, strange world, growing up in the process. Even more, though, it’s a dark Cinderella film. Betty escapes an abusive situation, finds her one true love, becomes famous and loses her naiveté. The final scene shows Betty as a changed woman, but don’t worry, one last joke is thrown in before the credits roll. Nurse Betty is at heart a dark twisted comedy.

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