Nurse Betty

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Nurse Betty
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNeil LaBute
Produced by
Written by
  • John C. Richards
  • James Flamberg
Music byRolfe Kent
CinematographyJean-Yves Escoffier
Edited byJoel Plotch
Steven Weisberg
Distributed byUSA Films
Release date
  • September 8, 2000 (2000-09-08)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$35 million[1]
Box office$29.4 million[1]

Nurse Betty is a 2000 American black comedy film directed by Neil LaBute and starring Renée Zellweger as a Kansas waitress who suffers a nervous breakdown after witnessing her husband's murder, and starts obsessively pursuing her favorite soap actor (Greg Kinnear), while in a fugue state. Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock play the hitmen who killed her husband and subsequently pursue her to Los Angeles.

For her performance, Zellweger won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.


In the small Kansas town of Fair Oaks, diner waitress Betty is a fan of the soap opera A Reason to Love. She has no idea that her husband Del, a car salesman, is having an affair and that he intends to leave Betty. She also doesn't know that her husband supplements his income by selling drugs. When Betty calls to ask about borrowing a Buick LeSabre for her birthday, her husband tells her to take a different car. Unknown to her, drugs are hidden in the LeSabre's trunk.

Two hitmen, Charlie and Wesley, come to Betty and Del's house and torture Del into revealing that he has hidden the drugs in the trunk of the LeSabre, but Wesley scalps him anyway. Betty witnesses the murder and enters a fugue state, assuming the identity of a nurse in A Reason to Love.

That evening, Sheriff Eldon Ballard, local reporter Roy Ostery, and several policemen examine the crime scene while Betty calmly packs a suitcase. She seems oblivious to the murder, even with the investigation going on right in her house. At the police station, a psychiatrist examines her. Betty spends the night at her friend's house, sleeping in a child's bedroom. In the middle of the night, she gets into the LeSabre and drives off. She stops at a bar in Williams, Arizona, where the bartender talks about her vacation in Rome and Betty tells her that she was once engaged to a famous surgeon (describing the lead character from A Reason to Love).

Meanwhile, the two hitmen are in pursuit, having realized that Betty has the car with the drugs. As they search, Charlie's heart begins to soften towards Betty, to Wesley's consternation. In Los Angeles, Betty tries to get a job as a nurse while looking for her long-lost "ex-fiancé". She is turned down because she has no résumé or references, but when she saves a young shooting victim's life with a technique she learned from the show, the hospital offers her a job in the pharmacy but forbids her to touch any more patients.

Despite her position, Betty becomes popular with patients and their families. She ends up living with Rosa, older sister to the young man she helped earlier, in gratitude for saving his life. Rosa is also a legal secretary and she offers to help Betty find her surgeon boyfriend. Rosa learns from a colleague that "David" is a soap opera character, and goes to the pharmacy window to confront Betty. Thinking her friend is jealous, Betty is impervious to the revelation.

The lawyer supplies tickets to a charity function where George McCord, the actor portraying David, will be appearing. Betty meets George at the function. George is inclined to dismiss her as an overimaginative fan, but something about her compels him to talk to her. He begins to think that Betty is an actress determined to get a part in the soap opera, so he decides to play along. After three hours of her "staying in character", he takes her home.

George begins falling in love with her, and he and his producer decide to bring her onto the show as a new character: Nurse Betty. When Betty arrives on set, she falls out of her fantasy world back into real life. After two failed takes, she realizes that she is on a set and that the people she thought were real are just characters. George confronts her and Betty walks out.

Back at Rosa's house, Betty is telling her roommate what happened, when the two hitmen walk in. They are interrupted by Sheriff Ballard and the reporter, who have also tracked down Betty. A standoff ensues until Ballard pulls a gun from an ankle holster and shoots Wesley, who is revealed to be Charlie's son. Charlie decides not to kill Betty and commits suicide in the bathroom.

George offers Betty a job on the show. She appears in 63 episodes and takes a vacation in Rome. Betty later plans to pursue nursing as a career.



Nurse Betty received very positive reviews from critics and has a rating of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 131 reviews with an average rating of 7.2/10. The consensus states "Quirky in the best sense of the word, Nurse Betty finds director Neil LaBute corralling a talented cast in service of a sharp, imaginative script."[2] Roger Ebert awarded the film three stars out of four, praising its depth but noting its emotional ambiguity: "Nurse Betty is one of those films where you don't know whether to laugh or cringe, and find yourself doing both."[3]

Box office[edit]

The film opened at #2 at the North American box office making $7.1 million USD in its opening weekend, behind The Watcher, which opened at the top spot.



  1. ^ a b "Nurse Betty (2000)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  2. ^ "Nurse Betty". Rotten Tomatoes.
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger (September 8, 2000). "Nurse Betty Movie Review & Film Summary (2000)". Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Nurse Betty". Retrieved 2009-10-10.

External links[edit]