We gave it a C-
Is there anything more dispiriting than watching a maverick lower his sights? Writer-director Neil LaBute brought a scorched-earth policy to gender relations in In the Company of Men and Your Friends & Neighbors, but with the warmed-over whimsy of Nurse Betty he condescends to characters, audience, genre — you name it. To be fair, John C. Richards and James Flamberg wrote the script this time out, conflating elements of Desperately Seeking Susan (naive Kansas waitress Renée Zellweger suffers amnesia and tumbles into her own fantasy life), Tootsie (she fakes her way onto the set of her favorite soap), and Pulp Fiction (Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock play hitmen specializing in gutter-mouth philosophy).
Why would LaBute, whose previous work has found venom and tragedy flaming away in his characters’ hearts, be attracted to such feel-good hokum? No idea, but only Freeman and, to some extent, Zellweger escape from this change-up with clean shoes. Betty, in the words of one character, has ”that wholesome Doris Day thing going.” On LaBute, it looks like Barton Fink in a housedress. C-
What We Said Then: ”…a leap of storytelling as joyously fluid as In the Company of Men is intentionally constricted.” A (#558, Sept. 8, 2000) — Lisa Schwarzbaum
2000 COLUMBIA TRISTAR 110 MINUTES RATED R