Director: Neil LaBute
Cast: Renee Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, Greg Kinnear
Viewed in theaters: 9/15/00
What makes this dark comedy a great movie is that it's an original story, which is something you don't see a lot in Hollywood with all the remakes and sequels you see at cinemas. For instance, a couple weeks ago I saw The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and while it was an entertaining movie, there was nothing new to the hijacking plot we've all seen a thousand times before. Yes, I realize it was a remake of an older movie, but even if it wasn't, there would still be nothing original about it.
Zellweger plays the titular character, a naive, young sweet-faced waitress from Kansas who is an aspiring nurse and obsessed with the cheesy soap opera A Reason to Love. She is fanatical about Dr. David Revell, the handsome main character of the show who is played by Kinnear's character. She goes into shock after witnessing the gruesome murder of her sleazeball husband (played by a mullet-coiffed Aaron Eckhart) by two hitmen played by Freeman and Rock. That scene will definitely make you squirm if lots of blood makes you squeamish... or skin being sliced off. She sets off for Hollywood in her husband's car (which contains drugs the hitmen are after) to find the object of her affection who she believes to be a real person and tells people she meets along the way that she's going to Los Angeles to find her ex-fiance. Meanwhile, the hitmen are trying to track her down.
Betty meets her favorite actor at a charity event and starts reciting lines to him and one of his co-stars and the head writer (played by the awesome Alison Janney) from an episode of the soap. They are all delighted by her, thinking she's just a super fan of the show, even though they think it's odd she keeps referring to Kinnear's character as David, but they assume she's an aspiring actress and has created her own character for herself on the show and is trying to stay in character. Kinnear is smitten with her and invites her to join the rest of the evening with him. I can't think of any instance where an actor (even a D-list soap star) would want to spend some alone time with a crazy fan who thinks they're really their character. That's like if some thirteen year old (or forty year old) saw RPatz and called him Edward and asked him why he wasn't sparkling in the sunlight. Even if the actor was stupid enough to want to spend time with this person, I highly doubt their publicist would let them.
Kinnear invites Betty to have a cameo on his show and of course when she gets to the set she is confused by all the lights and cameras and scripts because of course she thinks Dr. Ravell is a real person who works in a real hospital and it's there that it suddenly dawns on her what's happening.
If I knew a Betty in real-life, I'd probably want to shake her, but Zellweger plays her with such a sweetness you can't help but be charmed by her.
This was Zellweger's first lead role and while she did win a deserved Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy, she was totally robbed of an Oscar nomination. There was no way she would have won since the Oscar was Julia Robert's to lose that year, but Renee should have at least been nominated. I would have replaced Juliette Binoche from Chocolat with her. (Hey, she already won her Oscar; I'm sure she wouldn't have minded!) Nurse Betty is my favorite performance by Renee Zellweger and a great movie that I highly recommend.