Director Neil LaBute, who managed to attract considerable controversy with his first two features, In The Company Of Men (1997) and Your Friends & Neighbors (1998) without attracting a commensurate amount of ticket sales, may, in Nurse Betty, have found the happy mix of controversy and success.
Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal, who acknowledges that he didn't care for LaBute's first two films - nor this one either - concludes nevertheless, "Nurse Betty was meant to be light entertainment, and to establish the director's mainstream credentials. The movie succeeds on both counts; there's little question that it will find a large and appreciative audience. Like Mr. LaBute's previous features, though, it's the work of a man who can't get enough of his own cleverness."
Jonathan Foreman in the New York Post also says he found LaBute's first films distasteful. "Yet, this oddly cheerful, decreasingly dark comedy actually works and can boast some of the most enjoyable performances of the year. Everyone in it is on an exuberant roll."
Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe & Mail also compares Nurse Betty - favorably - with LaBute's earlier film. "Here, working for the first time from someone else's screenplay, the guy has taken a happy pill. Okay, relatively happy. This is a black comedy, to be sure, yet it positively pales before the bleak shadings of his earlier flicks."
But Gary Thompson in the Philadelphia Daily News concludes that the movie is a wreck. "This black comedy from Neil LaBute," he writes, "doesn't look finished, just abandoned - a complicated tangle of clashing ideas and styles beyond the director's capacity to reconcile."
That's not how Philip Wuntch in the Dallas Morning News sees it. "After a moviegoing summer of stale mind candy, Nurse Betty arrives as a sister of mercy," he concludes. "The movie is both audience-friendly and audience-challenging."
And Jay Carr in the Boston Globe writes similarly: "I'm not sure if it's a dark light comedy or a light dark comedy. Either way, it's lively, edgy, full of zigs and zags, juicy performances, and offbeat fun."
Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times and Hillel Italie of the Associated Press employ similar similes to produce opposite takes on the movie. Turan calls it "a noticeably sour fairy tale." Hillel calls it "the year's most enjoyable - and most surprising - fairy tale."