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Nurse Betty

Starring Morgan Freeman, Renee Zellweger, Chris Rock, Greg Kinnear
Screenplay by John C. Richards & James Flamberg
Story by John C. Richards
Directed by Neil LaBute

IN SHORT: Flat out brilliant. [Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language and a scene of sexuality. 112 minutes]

With an occasional dose of violence to keep everything on the level, director Neil LaBute's Nurse Betty may be the funniest, most adult comedy to hit the screens so far this year.

That being said, tell me if you've heard this one before: An All-American Kansas girl named Betty (Renee Zellweger) with a perfectly ordinary, uninteresting life, spends her days shlepping coffee at the Tip Top Cafe. Her evenings are spent with an unattentive husband (Aaron Eckhart) -- he's so bad that when she brings home a cupcake with a birthday candle in it, from a minor celebration at work, he sees a pre-dinner snack and bites into it. What this poor lass needs is something to take her away into a fantasy world, some sudden shift in reality if you will, where life is exciting and the man of her dreams is waiting to take her away.

Sorry, folks. A big name director has already got this year's option on the tornado shtick and LaBute is probably shuddering at the thematic reference to The Wizard Of Oz, but it's a legit call. Betty's hubby is involved with two criminal types (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock), one of whom goes ballistic on him, sending witness Betty into something psychologically called a fugue state. Betty takes a Buick borrowed from her old man's used car lot and heads for California, where apple of her eye Dr. David Ravell awaits at Loma Vista Hospital. In the trunk of that Buick is something the crooks want. In Los Angeles, an actor named George McCord (Greg Kinnear) goes through the daily grind of soap opera actor -- playing Dr. Ravell.

It isn't just that Betty is in shock from her experience. As she gets ever closer to Ravell/McCord a full fledged change in persona occurs and, thanks to two semesters at the Carlton School of Nursing and a quick save of a shooting victim, the folks in LA actually believe that Betty is a fully trained nurse. This leads to a place to stay and a hospital job. When the meeting between Betty and her dream doctor happens, the script takes a logical twist that is conceptually brillliant. What comes next (and here we add Allison Janney to the cast as the soap's writer) would be enough to recommend a ticket buy except that Richards and Flamberg have not forgotten about their supporting cast -- as the two bad guys track Betty down, Freeman's character begins to perceive Betty as his perfect Fairy Princess . . . see it and you'll understand.

LaBute's direction keeps everyone locked in place like dragsters gunning their engines before the green light. Every character is deep, including supporting actors I haven't mentioned here. Every actor delivers a perfect performance. Zellweger absolutely shines in the title role. We knew the lady could act but she's always been in the shadows of bigger name stars. There's nothing in her way here. It's a dynamite piece of work.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Nurse Betty, he would have paid...


and Cranky's Best of the Year list starts getting longer . . .

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