BETTY V THE CELL
Director: Neil LaBute
John C. Richards James Flamberg IT from the short story by John C. Richards
Morgan Freeman - Charlie, Renee Zellweger - Betty, Chris Rock - Wesley
Greg Kinnear - Dr. David Ravell, Aaron Eckhart - Del, Tia Texada - Rosa
Its one of those curious phenomenons really, a summer of really
bad films, such as the dire What lies beneath, a yawn fest
that hoped to capture the Bruce Willis magic of Sixth Sense
and completely fails, using a tired old Hitchcock plot and worn out
box office stars who look so indifferent to each other you just dont
care a fig who does what and when you do get an electric moment of special
effects, you just dont care any more. X-Men had some merits. Old
warhorse Shakespearean actors battling it out with cartoonish characters.
The special effects were great, it had style and some wit, a big dollop
of Matrix style action but no plot. They always forget something, huh.
You might ask too as to why the serial killer movie has not yet gone
the way of the western.
goes someway to reinvent the genre, borrowing the Matrix along the way.
This is quite an intelligent thriller actually and Jennifer Lopex is
captivating , as always. The special effects are pretty spectacular
using South-West Africas wonderful dune landscape to good effect.
But despite the style, it breakes no new ground, celebrates the worst
kind of human and why do all the other actors have to be so wooden,
as if they escaped from Blake Seven. Can we not use special
effects to some more inspirational? Not content with one serial killer
at the box office, we have another now in the shape of The Watcher
starring Keanu Reeves and Silence of the Lambs 2 coming along. Please
no more. Lets be nice and not rot anymore brain cells or encourage
more loners to slice and dice attractive housewives and lonely men in
search of thrills.
So, instinct told me that
Nurse Betty would be the ideal antidote to all
this mayhem and it immediately restored my faith in human nature, well
not quite an epiphany, but Renee Zellweger is always amusing and engaging
The plot is classic Hollywood. A downtrodden Kansas little wife
Betty , who is obsessed by a hospital soap opera accidentally witnesses
the murder of her white trash, car salesman husband at the hand of two
hitmen played by Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock, a father and son team
quite at odds with each other. The hit is gross, the man is scalped.
Renees Betty is traumatised by the event and in classic withdrawal
mode, retreats into the soap opera she so loves. She packs her bags
and without even acknowledging her husbands death, or the cops
who are in her house, goes in search of her heart surgeon fiance Wesley
(played by Greg Kinnear) working at a famous but ficticious hospital
in Los Angeles. After all this is what Nurse Betty would do.
On the way Nurse Betty stops at a bar to watch her soap at the regular
time, confessing to the bar owner that shes on her way to met
her heart surgeon fiance. Only slowly do people cotton on that Nurse
Betty is not quite right somehow. On arriving at a Los Angeles hospital
she immediately begins to save lives, just doing what people do on TV.
She gets a job in a hospital pharmacy as they wait for her Kansas papers
and is befriended by a Hispanic woman who quite quickly becomes suspicious
of her new friends grip on reality.
Meanwhile the hit men are on Nurse Bettys trail. They cant
collect on the job until they find what was in her husbands car
and eliminate the witness to their deed. Yes, it has the flavour, but
none of the craziness of Wild at heart. But at least Neil
La Bute and his writers have given us a plot.
It is also the best film of the summer, by a long way. Deftly acted,
well supported and genuinely human of slightly off the wall, Nurse Betty
rewards you in many ways. It has the atmosphere of the best episodes
of Northern Exposure and Twin Peaks and the mannerisms of the wonderful
Being John Malkovitch. It isnt trying to be anything
more than a road movie, but somehow it hits all the right spots and
has you rooting for Nurse Betty all the time and its entirely
satisfying. It is as if someone has finally realised that we actually
would like to go to a movie and fall in love with the characters they
give us. We have an old hitman played wonderfully by Morgan Freeman,
trying to do his last job so he can retire and leave the work to his
woefully unsophisticated son. The embittered relationshio between father
and son is great and Chris Rock truly plays up his impatience with an
old man who is a cultured and well read hit man, a real romantic and
has actually fallen for Nurse Betty, looking only at her picture on
the dashboard. Greg Kinnear as the famous heart surgeon is weak, egotistical
and a perfect soap star, his shallow ego taking advantage of Nurse Betty
, possibly even suspecting she is wacko, but keen to exploit her knack
Perhaps I am guilty of reading too much into this screwball film, but
aside from the violent beginning, this could easily have been a Frank
Capra movie and the fact that it opened at No 2 at the Box Office in
the USA early September reveals that there is a need for this kind of
entertainment, a huge need in a summer of serially dull movies. Renee
Zellweger as Nurse Betty is warm, engaging and you can easily seen why
people loved her in Jerry Maquire and why she has been chosen
to play Bridget Jones.
If you are reading this in an archive in the depths of winter, well
rent the video and have a good evening in for once. (Just dont
let the kids see the scalping). PS: Give Renee an Oscar for saving a
© Sam North 2000