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Starring: Renee Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Greg Kinnear
Director: Neil LaBute
Rated: MA15+

NURSE Betty is billed as a ‘black comedy thriller’. It certainly lives up to both parts of this description.

When her drug-dealing husband Del is brutally murdered before her eyes, Betty (Renee Zellweger), who is dippy at the best of times, suffers amnesia of the entire event. She throws in her job as a waitress at the local diner and hits the road for Los Angeles.

With Del’s killer (Morgan Freeman) on her trail, Betty searches for the one true love of her life, ‘Dr David’ (Greg Kinnear), or George in real life, the star of her favourite television soap opera. By the time she meets the heart surgeon Dr David, Betty is as determined to marry him as her pursuers are to silence her.

Though the scenario is far-fetched, the three lead actors deliver the goods. With Bridget Jones’s Diary and now Nurse Betty under her belt, Zellweger is proving to be one of her generation’s best actors. She lights up every scene she is in.

Morgan Freeman is the nicest crook we have seen for years and Greg Kinnear as Dr David superbly judges the innocence and then fear of Betty as the story develops.

Nurse Betty also raises important issues. There are people for whom the soap opera stars are more than just entertaining characters.

Some people speak of them as though they were part of their lives. They are friends and companions in a lonely world.

In a mediated world these shows take on an inordinate power and significance. So it is plausible that through a mixture of dysfunction and shock Dr David becomes a secure point in Betty’s crumbling world.

There are a number of hilarious scenes in this film, but Neil LaBute knows that Betty is also a pathetic character, caught in a marriage which was as make-believe as her soap-opera obsession. While we laugh to the end we know that the last laugh is on a society where neighbours can live next door to each other for years and never speak.

No wonder soap characters become some people’s best friends.

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