What to do while watching:
What to eat while watching:
Betty is a real doll, a fresh-faced kid in a small town working as a waitress in the local coffee shop. It's clear she's the darling of the little burg, cute as a button, and still young enough to be fetching, but without any airs or sluttiness.
Her situation isn't pretty. An unfaithful husband and the kind of work that will age a person quickly let the viewer see that she's either destined for something else-or she's going to rot in this town faster than a pear in a paper sack.
At first I really feared the small-town story, told a thousand times and usually pretty sappy. There was, for instance, That Film About The Walmart Baby, which it has been my fortune to have seen in its 7-minute preview version only. That one's a film that, unless my nose deceives me, reeks of bad men, sad women, comeuppance, pithiness, down-home wisdom, and a happy ending all drenched in Mrs. Butterworth's Maple Syrup.
But Nurse Betty, staring Renée Zellweger is a different sort of story. Betty's hubby, believing himself destined for greatness, is mixed up in worse sins than adultery-and keep in mind that that's Commandment #7! His dealings run him afoul of Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock, two killers who are not kidding around.
Freeman plays the smooth elder assassin, now on his last assignment, teaching his young partner how the business gets done. This is an interesting twist on the standard setup of the old-guard cop showing the ropes to the rookie. Freeman is really good, subtly throwing his character back to a 70's mack daddy and at the same time touching on Buddhist transcendentalism. Really, though, he's a romantic through and through, and this proves his undoing.
Chris Rock on the flipside, is the intense baddie, funny in his unwavering "on" status. It's a subtler humor than Rock usually does, and it too is refreshing.
But the focus is on Betty, a soap opera fanatic very much in love with the superstar actor on "A Reason To Live." So fanatic is she that the trauma of watching her husband get the fast-pass to under-the-grass, from Rock and Freeman, flips her little mind into the soap's storyline. She believes herself to be a character in the show and believes the characters that she's been following to be real people, not actors playing parts.
So begins the roadtrip. She writers her (very dead) husband a Dear John and hits the highway to get reunited with her ex-fiance, the protagonist on "A Reason to Live." (The name of the show is heavy-handidly symbolic, but why not? After all, the name is not beyond typical daytime TV.)
Freeman and Rock are on her trail, but Betty's natural charm and luck keep her a few steps ahead of them until she finally reaches L.A. and manages to confront the actor, George Somebody, played by A Relatively Visible Character Actor, who plays Dr. David Protagonist Dude on the soap. Sound confusing. It's not, except inside the head of li'l Betty.
I won't give it away, but the soap opera's cast reads Betty's dissociation from reality in the only other way they could: they understand her to be an actor, doing the supremely tenacious, do-anything-for-a-part thing. They see her playing her role so uncompromisingly as an effort to get onto the show. Dr. David Protagonist Dude (AKA George Somebody, played by that one actor) is impressed and, like so many others, charmed, I'm sure.
Later, everything comes to a head in a very strange way. Freeman the romantic wants his last murder (of Betty) to be just right. Crispin Glover, playing the small-town reporter with a secret crush on Betty, shows up in L.A. to cause more mayhem. I'm not sure why I like him so much, but something about his presence in any film makes me feel happier (except for this solo project he did-the name escapes me-which was among the doggiest of dogs).
Altogether a really strange movie that made me feel a genuine sense of wonder. Between real care for these characters, a sense of suspense and nervousness, and an honest-to-gosh surprise or two, this movie has my recommendation as a fully entertaining experience.
©1999 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights happily reserved.