You will laugh and think, as well as squirm, and you may leave the theater in a profound state of restlessness.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

If you like your humor laced with savagery, you'll probably love Nurse Betty. If you don't, you still won't waste your time. Director Neil LaBute's earlier films, In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors, pulsed with frightening emotional and physical brutality. He has a mean streak. So prepare yourself to watch while one man is scalped and others are shot. And, remember, this is a comedy. It is also a tragedy, and there was no need to force the audience into a state of full-time apprehension about the bloody events that he uses to trigger story shifts.

Talk about a delicate balance. The gossamer line between fantasy and reality that is one of life's great enablers disappears in this film. Betty (Renee Zellweger) is married to Del (Aaron Eckhart). Del is such a gross, hateful slob of a husband that it's no wonder Betty has found a substitute. She has submerged herself entirely in the soap opera "A Reason to Love."

She is in love with the main character, Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear), a handsome hotshot heart surgeon in the hospital drama she tapes each day to watch after work. On this fateful night, Dr. Ravell utters the line that flies straight from the TV into Betty's heart: "I just know there's something special out there for me." It is her destiny. She will leave Del and drive to California to find Dr. David Ravell.

With the enormity of her decision, Betty blocks out real life entirely-including the sight of her husband's murder in the living room at the same moment. Del is scalped by hit men Charlie (Morgan Freeman) and his protege Wesley (Chris Rock). As the coffee-shop waitress leaves Kansas for the first time in her life to search for her hero-followed by Charlie and Wesley-she has already stepped into her new reality. She has switched life and illusion, an interesting proposition in today's television culture. As Mr. LaBute explores illusion and performance, he is creating a provocative commentary on the inner lives of all of us.

Although she is supported in fine style by Greg Kinnear and Allison Janney, nothing would work here without Renee Zellweger, who manages to blur superbly the line between outer performance and interior life without a drop of sentimentality. She projects the innocence and honesty essential to Betty's character. Drawn into illusion at the drop of a hat, or a well-chosen soundtrack song, Betty is believable and original. It's not quite so easy initially to accept Morgan Freeman's hit man, but when he slips into a secondary fantasy with Ms. Zellweger, we begin to understand the scope of Mr. LaBute's premise.

Since we can't erase the masochism from Mr. LaBute's personality, we can at least appreciate his talent. You will laugh and think, as well as squirm, and you may leave the theater in a profound state of restlessness. That beats boredom.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 509
Studio : USA Films
Rating : R
Running time : 1h52m

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