Betty (Renee Zellwegger), a hard-luck Kansas waitress, is devoted to her daytime TV serial, “A Reason To Live.” In a state of amnesia-induced shock after witnessing her adulterous drug-dealing husband killed by hit men, she enters into a make-believe world. Donning a nurse’s uniform, Betty packs the car and heads for L.A. to marry Dr. David Ravell (Greg Kinnear), a fictitious heart surgeon on “A Reason To Live.” What she doesn’t realize, besides the fact that David is played by an actor, is that she is being pursued by the local sheriff who thinks she scalped and shot her unfaithful husband, and by the two hit men (Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock), who are after what’s stashed in her car trunk.
No matter how fine the technical and artistic achievements of a film may be, if the content is troubling to my spirit, its virtues often become insignificant. Now, you’ll probably never hear Roger Ebert make that declaration, but then, many secular critics seldom take into account the moral and psychological impact of a movie when they define its merits. For me, if a movie’s oppressive content unequally counters the positive message, I usually leave the theater disheartened. If an audience sits through two hours of emotional abuse to get to the 5-minute cheery epilogue, what happens to their psyche during the process? “Nurse Betty” earned the Best Screenplay award at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival, and Zellweger, Morgan and Kinnear give award-worthy performances, but the excessive amounts of brutality, profanity and its edgy, dark humor make for unsettling viewing. (Comedy is always associated with the film’s brutality so that you find yourself laughing just after viewing something disgusting or unnerving.) What also caused me consternation was the idea that we find happiness within ourselves, alone. At one point, Betty is told, “You don’t need a man. It’s not the ‘40s. You don’t need anybody – cause you’ve got yourself.” That viewpoint seems to suggest that the belief behind the quote “no man is an island” is no longer relevant. In contrast, the amusing 1971 film “They Might Be Giants” argues that we do need another person to make us complete. In that motion picture, George C. Scott also plays a delusional person, this one living in his own private world, thinking he is Sherlock Holmes. Fortunately, his female psychiatrist, whose name just so happens to be Dr. Watson, tags along on his quest to defeat his nemesis, Professor Moriarty. Scott’s character needs someone by his side. He learns that we are not meant to isolate ourselves. The theme in “Nurse Betty,” however, purposes that not only don’t we need a mate to fulfill us, but it also states that we will find satisfaction within, without a spiritual awareness. Although it can be debated whether or not a twosome through life’s journey is necessary to acquire contentment, if the Bible is correct, we will find ultimate peace only in knowing and living the words of God. (“To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness…” Ecclesiastes 2:26)