Nurse Betty

Deadening, unsatisfying comedy about a cheerful Kansas housewife (Renée Zellweger) who goes into shock after witnessing her husband's murder and – caught up in a trauma-induced fantasy wherein she believes a soap opera doctor (Greg Kinnear) is actually her ex-fiancee – travels out to Los Angeles to be with him. Meanwhile, her husband's killers (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock) try to track her down in order to take care of some unfinished business, losing their own grip on reality in the process.

Nurse Betty's greatest liability is its script: it plain stinks. The characters' motivations are unbelievable, the plot points are forced, and all in all it just doesn't work. Which is especially a shock considering its director, Neil LaBute, who made a name for himself with his first two films In the Company of Men and Your Friends and Neighbors. Both low-budget films were crudely filmed but expertly performed, with scathing dialogue and a world view that was brutal – some say brutally honest. The difference here is that LaBute is working off someone else's script (first-time writers John C. Richards and James Flamberg). Though LaBute admits to having rewritten nearly all the dialogue himself (with mixed results), he insists that he didn't muck around with characters or story – probably why the whole thing is a mess.

I can't see any real defense for the film's implausibilities; even satire and farce (and this is neither) need to be grounded in the real world in order for the absurdist payoff to work. And too much is done in earnest to suggest irony. As for the performances, Zellweger does her best with her opaque character, Kinnear plies his typical smarm as the soap actor who plays along with her fantasy, Rock is bad as usual, but Morgan Freeman! The poor man! He is such a fine actor, but here he seems actually disappointed with how the film is turning out, and it shows in his lack of chemistry with Rock and Zellweger. The film's saving grace is Jean-Yves Escoffier's rich cinematography; its final downfall an intrusive, downright awful score by Rolfe Kent.