"I was livid," Zellweger says of Men, about two yuppies who get their kicks by dating and dumping women. "I was pissed off that somebody would make a film about this, that these characters were hateful as they were, that they were so cruel."

However, after cooling her jets, the future star of Bridget Jones' Diary suddenly had a change of heart. "About halfway home I understood: Well, that's what the point was," Zellweger recalls. "He was telling a story with a lot of irony and honesty, and the intention was to make you feel like that about the situation."

Zellweger, most recently seen opposite real-life beau Jim Carrey in the box-office disappointment Me, Myself and Irene, anticipates that audiences will have a similarly strong reaction to LaBute's latest effort, in which she stars as an obsessed soap fan. But despite some disturbing elements, Nurse Betty, she believes, ultimately is life-affirming.

"I think the most important thing about the film is the sentiment that you feel for Betty the character," she says. "When I saw [it], I was joyful. I was happy for her. It's a story about creating a better reality and dreams coming true and finding yourself.... [Neil] made it more magical and inventive than I could have imagined."