Renée Zellweger wasn't always a big fan of her Nurse Betty director,

Neil LaBute. The Jerry Maguire actress admits that after seeing his first feature, 1997's In the Company of Men, she felt nothing but disdain for the misogynist.

"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."