After two films that took a rather harsh (to put it lightly) look at relationships in "In the Company of Men" and "Your Friends and Neighbors", director Neil Labute switches things up with this lighter fantasy that still has an undercurrent of darkness running through it. Starring Golden Globe winner Renee Zellweger as Betty, "Nurse Betty" revolves around her character , who waitresses at a local diner and has a remarkably mean-spirited husband named Del(Aaron Eckheart of "Company").
After Del is killed in front of Betty's eyes by two hitmen, she cracks. Betty has always been fascinated with the soap opera "A Reason To Love" and its star, one Dr. David Ravell(Greg Kinnear) and once she snaps, she thinks that she's his long-lost fiance and sets out to California to find him. In persuit of Betty are the two hitman, Charlie (Morgan Freeman) and Wesley (Chris Rock).
"Betty" works for several reasons, the first of which is the often hilarious and intelligent screenplay by John Richards & James Flamberg. Obviously, the plot goes off in weird ways, but thankfully the studio and filmmakers saw that there's a great deal of amusing moments and well-defined (if odd) characters throughout. The performances are also quite enjoyable, as Zellweger's award-winning performance is certainly the highlight. Her portrayal of Betty is loopy, sweet and twisted without becoming bland and keeping her engaging and sympathetic. Rock and Freeman are great together as hitmen. The two have a few scenes that have some great comic arguing, but these arguements never halt the pace of the movie.
The film isn't completely the comedy as it was marketed as being, but there are funny moments that liven things up at many points throughout the film between some darker (and occasionally violent) areas. LaBute's first film that wasn't written by him shows that he's just as capable of directing material that he didn't create.
VIDEO: Although some of their efforts have been pretty strong ("Plunkett and MacLeane") USA Films has never brought out a DVD effort yet that I've really been 100% pleased with. "Nurse Betty" is certainly not one of their better efforts, although it's not unwatchable. Sharpness and detail are fair - most of the movie looks acceptable, but some slight softness creeps in from time to time, just keeping the picture from being well-defined and crisp.
Colors seem slightly off - occasionally a little too heavy as colors occasionally bleed and flesh-tones look somewhat unnatural. Pixelation becomes somewhat distracting at times and occasionally rather irritating. The one positive in it all is that print flaws are kept to a minimum. There's only a couple of very, very minor speckles throughout the whole movie. It's unfortunate that the work here couldn't have been better because Jean Yves-Escoffier("Good Will Hunting")'s cinematography is excellent.
SOUND: "Nurse Betty" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, but the majority of it is completely dialogue-driven, with only some light touches of score - still, it mostly stays mono in nature. Although with a film like this, I wouldn't expect a great deal of active sound use, it would have been nice to get some subtle sound touches throughout the movie - at least some light ambient sounds. Surrounds stay silent for much of the film with only a couple of exceptions. Dialogue remains clear and natural though, and it's really the only element that receives any focus.
MENUS:: Cute menus are provided with film-themed animation and touches of the score in the backgrounds.
Commentary: This is a great commentary from director Neil Labute as well as actors Chris Rock, Morgan Freeman, Greg Kinnear and actress Renee Zellweger. It's quite an entertaining track - providing a good mix of the occasional technical information and a great deal of hilarious stories from the set and about the production in general. The other commentary is really where to go for more production tidbits, and this commentary mainly offers the cast discussing their feelings about the film and joking around about what goes by. Freeman has appeared on other commentary tracks recently and is able to easily go between being a bit silly and serious in his comments and insights. Zellweger and Kinnear contribute occasionally and have some amusing moments. Rock also only talks infrequently, but has a few hilarious things to say. Definitely worth a listen.
Commentary: This is a crew commentary that consists of director Neil Labute as well as composer Rolfe Kent, producers Gail Mutrux and Steve Golan, costume designer Lynette Meyer and cinematographer Jean Yves-Escoffier. This is a more technical commentary that focuses on several elements that came together and played a strong role in the production.
It's also a somewhat less entertaining commentary as the group mainly focuses on the specific elements that came together to form each scene rather than having some lighter comments about the final product like the actors did. There's some very informative moments and although the cast commentary is the one that most should likely go to first, if you're still willing to go deeper into learning about the making of the film, you should check out this second track.
Deleted Scenes: 5 deleted scenes are shown and although they have some slightly interesting moments, they were rightly cut out - probably for pacing reasons. A commentary on why they were taken out is not provided.
Trailers/TV Spots: The film's trailer is provided along with 6 TV spots.
Reason To Love: The clips from the soap opera show that are included in the film are also available on the DVD. An extra clip can be found by highlighting an additional element of the page where the clips are located.
DVD-ROM: The original teaser website and script are included in the DVD-ROM section.
Final Thoughts: I enjoyed much of "Nurse Betty", with its fun performances and great dialogue. I can't quite say the same about the DVD, unfortunately. Although there's some great extra features, audio and especially video quality are rather dissapointing. Still, the movie is very good (although maybe not for everyone) and still worth checking out.