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:: Nurse Betty

Neil Labute’s third feature and the first he hasn’t written himself, sounds promising enough. A waitress, (Zellwegger) in a small town, obsessed with a soap opera, goes out of her mind when she witnesses a traumatic event and becomes convinced that the soap opera is real. She goes to LA in search of Dr Ravell, (Kinnear), a character on the soap, who she thinks is a real person and her one true love. Two hitmen, (Freeman and Rock) pursue her; out to get what she has unwittingly got stashed in the trunk of her car.

Unfortunately the slightly zany premise is not supported by an ounce of reality in any of the situations. It is simply impossible to believe that the cast of the soap opera would accept Betty and the way she gets a job in the hospital is comic book like in its contrived simplicity. Zellwegger does a repeat of her Bridget Jones performance without the accent, all goofy mannerisms and naivety. Chris Rock and Morgan Freeman are just two more examples of arguing wise cracking hitmen; their brutality juxtaposed with their comic feuding a la Tarantino.

There is very little pace or suspense, and though she is pursued and eventually caught by the hitmen, it never feels like there is terribly much at stake for Betty. Since we never get inside her head, she’s just loopy, it’s difficult to care about her, and as her goal, to find Dr Ravell, is so ludicrous, it’s difficult to care about that too. Some odd stylistic choices also served to distance the audience, particularly Freeman’s one off dream sequence. The film condescends to just about everybody; people in the TV industry, people who watch TV, people who live in small towns, and men. The only one who remains impossibly good and pure is Betty, and that makes her impossibly dull.

Neil Labute’s debut, In the Company of Men, showed promise and a willingness to show the dark side of human nature. He seems to have steadily watered that promise down to deliver a bland, unchallenging and, unforgivably, unfunny comedy. Strictly one for a rainy afternoon when you want to leave you critical faculties at home.

Screening on general release including Cinema Nova, Classic Cinemas, and Cinema Como