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Film / Nurse Betty

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Nurse Betty is a 2000 Black Comedy film directed by Neil LaBute, based on a story by John C. Richards.

Traumatized as a result of witnessing the brutal slaying of her husband, Betty (Renée Zellweger), a small-town waitress and Soap Opera fan, enters a fugue state that allows—even encourages—her to keep functioning in a state of Alternate Universe. Now living out the fantasy life of the erstwhile Nurse Betty, she is set on returning to the love of her life, the lead character on Betty's favorite medical soap opera... the fictional Dr. David Ravell, played by actor George McCord (Greg Kinnear).

What she doesn't know is that her husband's hitmen, Charlie (Morgan Freeman) and Wesley (Chris Rock), are after her next.

This film contains examples of:

  • Asshole Victim: Betty's husband steals a bunch of drugs and tries to re-sale them, cheats on his wife, is insensitive toward her attempts to find happiness, has an inflated view of his superiority, and mocks Native Americans and gay people. That being said, his scalping and subsequent death are so horrifying that even the killers are shaken.
  • Black Republican: Briefly referenced when African-American hitman Charlie describes himself as "conservative, but flexible".
  • Bloody Hilarious: Right after Betty assures Rosa that her brother's tracheotomy has gone smoothly, she gets splattered with blood shooting out of the tube.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: After Betty witnesses her husband's murder she has a brain snap and believes she's a character from her favorite soap opera.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Sheriff Ballard spends most of the movie being The Lopsided Arm of the Law, but then he kills Charlie during the final shootout.
  • D-Cup Distress: Rosa says that she wishes more of the people she brought to her apartment would pay attention to the trappings (most notably the fish tank) instead of her breasts. This turns into a Brick Joke when Roy recognizes the fishes and hits it off with her.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After all the terrible events that happen to Betty, things end very well for her.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Averted, at least in one instance. When hitman Charlie goes to the other room with his silenced pistol into the adjacent room to Betty to commit suicide with the door closed, the "thump" of the gun is loud enough to make Betty jump. Ironically, this is a movie about a person that had trouble separating soap opera characters with real people.
  • Holy Hitman: The hitman pair are both very religious and will cite chapter and verse when killing.
  • I Have a Family: When Charlie holds him at gunpoint, Sheriff Ballard says that he has two kids and a dog. Charlie is unimpressed.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Charlie and Wesley use fake police badges to get information from people in several scenes (other times they pose as insurance investigators). They fool everyone but Joyce the bartender, who's ex-husband is a cop.
  • Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy: Betty successfully performs a tracheotomy, knowing how to do so from obsessively watching a medical soap opera.
  • Loving a Shadow: Charlie falls in love with an idealized version of the woman he is chasing and argues with any suggestions that conflict with his opinion of her. This constantly annoys and baffles his partner Wesley. Ultimately, it turns into an oddly touching You Are Better Than You Think You Are speech during their last confrontation.
  • Missing Mom:
    • Betty's mother died when she was 12.
    • Wesley's mother is never mentioned, and Charlie's infatuation with Betty and description of his retirement plans suggest that he's currently single.
  • Not So Above It All: Wesley chides Charlie for Loving a Shadow and being unprofessional, but he gets increasingly invested in the Show Within a Show that Betty watches and has a minor Villainous Breakdown upon learning that the character he has a crush on is a lesbian.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Dale, who is involved in the drug trade, makes a derisive comment about alcoholic Native Americans and uses gay slurs.
    • Hitman Charlie insists that his favorite TV character "ain't no dyke."
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Once they find the stash in Betty's car, Wesley suggests just leaving Betty alone and taking the drugs back to his employer, but doesn't do this out of any real sympathy for Betty.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Wesley scalps Del-and promptly freaks out over it-because he mistakes a story that Charlie recounts about how a man can survive being scalped to frighten Dale and rub in how insensitive Dale is toward Native Americans. Wesley interprets this as an order to scalp Dale and does so, leaving both hitmen horrified and forcing them to shoot Dale when he breaks loose due to the adrenaline.
  • Pretty in Mink: When Betty first meets "Ravell", she wears an evening dress and black fur wrap.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Averted. We don't see hitman Wesley shot in the head in the movie itself, but a deleted scene entitled "The Flap" shows that it was quite graphic, perhaps too much for the rating.
  • Race Fetish: A Running Gag through the movie is Wesley's attraction to Asian women.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Betty's mother died when she was 12 and her grandparents apparently raised her afterward, as they have her old diary with them.
  • Retirony: Hitman with a Heart Charlie keeps going on about how this is his last job and Betty will be his last vicim. He ends up shooting himself instead of Betty after his son/partner dies.
  • Soap Within a Show: The show is called A Reason to Love. The DVD even includes episodes of the show in their entirety. They're only five minutes long and exist just to show clips during the movie, but there's a coherent plot running through them. Expectedly, all the soap cliches are shown in full, right down to that damn fuzzy camera.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Charlie begins to fall in love with Betty while pursuing her, imagining her as this beautiful princess with grace and poise.
    Wesley: "You're scaring me with all this "poise" bullshit. Why can't you just say she's got a nice ass?
  • Stealing the Credit: Sheriff Ballard tells the hitmen how he watched Betty's soap opera and figged out that she's in Arizona, when, really, Intrepid Reporter Roy did that while Ballard was skeptical and dismissive of his efforts. Roy is very eager to set the record straight once Charlie un-gags him.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Del. Charlie coldly explains this to him a few minutes before killing him.
    Charlie: Del, wanna know what stupid is? Stupid is taking what doesn't belong to you. Isn't that right, Wesley? That's right. Stupid is trying to sell it to people who are, by their very nature, untrustworthy. That is so right. Stupid is calling people in Kansas City who are affiliated to the rightful owners of the thing you stole and trying to sell it to them. Now, that's really stupid.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Rosa starts out as a supportive friend to Betty, but gets a lot more sour and irritable with her after realizing that she Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality and observes Betty luck into a romance with the actor who she thinks is the character he plays. She's more exasperated than cruel or bitter, though, and softens up again in the last few scenes.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Betty is stripped off any memory regarding her husband's murder.
  • Uncertain Doom: Ellen and Merl are last seen being roughed up by Wesley and Charlie for information, and it is unknown if the hitmen spared them or not.
  • Villainous Valor: In a Deleted Scene, a man who helped Del steal the drugs furiously throws racist slurs at Charlie and Wesley with barely any fear even though they have him tied up and have shown a willingness to torture him.
  • Wham Line: Bantering Baddie Buddies Wesley and Charlie's entire relationship is cast in a different light by Wesley's last word after he's shot.
    Wesley: Daddy.