Renee Zellwegger’s lips should be eligible for their own Oscar. As the waitress who is such a big fan of a soap opera that she becomes convinced she is a character on it, she does more to convey her essential sweetness and strength of character with her lips alone than most actresses could manage using a couple of bodies.
Zellwegger plays Betty, a sweet, trusting woman married to a boorish used car salesman (Aaron Eckhardt, unrecognizable as Erin Brokovich’s biker boyfriend). She does not know that her husband has stolen some heroin and hid it in one of his cars. When he is scalped by a hitman who is searching for the heroin, Betty goes into what psychiatrists call a fugue state. She has no memory of seeing her husband killed. Instead, she thinks she has left him to return to her former fiancé, a soap opera doctor. So, she sets off to find him, not knowing that she is driving the car where her husband stashed the heroin. The two hitmen, Charlie (Morgan Freeman) and Wesley (Chris Rock), follow her so they can kill her. Meanwhile, she goes to Los Angeles, gets a job in a hospital, and meets the actor who plays her dream man.
Betty’s trip from Kansas to Los Angeles recalls the journey of that other famous Kansan, Dorothy. Both go to a fantasy land only to find that the answer is within themselves. As someone tells Betty, “Honey, you don’t need anybody. You know why? Because you’ve got yourself.”
Charlie, too, is chasing a dream, wanting to finish this one last job so he can retire but growing more and more drawn to the woman he is supposed to kill. Betty and Charlie both seek a dream that will let them leave their pasts behind.
Parents should know that the movie, while primarily a comedy, has some scary and violent moments. The scalping scene is pretty grisly. The movie also has strong language and sexual situations.
Families who see this movie should talk about how Betty learned that she could solve her own problems and follow her real dream of becoming a nurse. Betty’s husband describes the soap opera fans as “people with no lives watching each other’s fake lives.” Is that true of anyone who watches any television show or movie, including the people who watch this one? Is there a difference between watching for escape and watching for entertainment or insight? Why would Betty stay with such an awful husband for so long? Were any other characters chasing dreams? Who?
Families who like this movie will also enjoy “Nashville.”