Starring Loes Luca, Paul R. Kooij, Wouter Paul de Leeuw, Tjitske Reidinga, Waldemar Torenstra
Directed by Pieter Kramer
Screenplay by Frank Houtappels, Pieter Kramer
Based on the Television Series by Annie M. G. Schmidt and Harry Bannink
Bos Bros. Productions
You'd think that people would've had enough of silly love songs; I look around me and I see "Yes Nurse! No Nurse!" Pieter Kramer's zany musical, based on a popular 1960's Dutch television series and Kramer's own recent stage revival, tells the story of Nurse Klivia (Loes Luca) and her "rest home" full of cute adult misfits.
As the film begins, the rest home has been under threat by screechingly uptight landlord and neighbor Boordevol (Paul R. Kooij), who wants the "nutcases" out so he can put the building to quieter and more lucrative use. Then, young thief Gerrit (Waldemar Torenstra) falls for high strung rest home resident Jet (Tjitske Reidinga). Gerrit persuades Klivia to let him stay at the home, promising to reform, and the conflict with Boordevol comes to a head.
Despite its appeal to camp-seeking audiences, a few mild double entendres, and oblique suggestions of homosexuality, the movie occurs in an innocent classic pop neverland. So it's far from the rock era subversions of "Tommy," "Rocky Horror" or "Little Shop of Horrors." But its basic themes--tolerate diversity and be less greedy, you sad, lonely oppressors--are timely.
Prefacing the film is a message noting that the filmmakers recognize the important functions of the Red Cross symbol in that organization's work, but that the film's frequent use of the symbol "conflicts with the above." Something similar might have been said of the film's depiction of nursing. But I'm not sure the filmmakers' tongue-in-cheek disclaimer is warranted in either situation. If more people would embrace the movie's humanistic message, the work of the Red Cross might be considerably eased.
And the vision of nursing is better than it may sound. The first musical number features "nurses" in traditional white uniforms dancing, and at one point, actually dancing with humanoid red crosses. They are singing the kind of firm directions that Nurse Klivia must issue to her wayward charges, mostly cautioning against making too much noise, which would disturb Boordevol. The playful reply: "Yes nurse! No nurse!" The dancing nurses are silly--yet pretty chaste--and Klivia seems to spend most of her time correcting the residents and running the household. (She does get to bandage Gerrit's injured hand.) It's certainly possible to see Klivia as an example of the maternal nursing stereotype, with perhaps a hint of the battleaxe in the frequent corrections. And she could do more teaching, as opposed to simply enforcing rules, though of course there is an overlap.
But no profession is presented seriously here, and managing a household of the developmentally challenged by yourself presumably does require limit setting and hard work, which Klivia displays. She tries to keep order, but not with an iron hand, and there is no suggestion that her directions spring from Ratched-like sexual frustration. Indeed, the key idea (also expressed in the title song) is that people should do what they like, as long as they don't disturb others.
And Klivia's efforts to keep the residents out of trouble, which land her in court more than once defending against claims by Boordevol, could be seen as patient advocacy. She is savvy, deflecting the unwanted interest of both Boordevol and the police with the strategic deployment of baked goods. She is the strongest, wisest, and most moral character here, as well as the closest the film comes to that elusive third dimension, thanks in part to Luca's performance. In one pivotal scene, Klivia receives the kind of outpouring of community good will seen in "It's a Wonderful Life." Like George Bailey, she's not perfect--she can snap at the exasperating residents, and make snap judgments. But her businesslike care, along with the stirrings of love in other characters, seem to have a kind of redemptive power.
"Yes Nurse! No Nurse!" aims for inspired lunacy. In some of the catchy musical numbers, it succeeds. In between numbers, the drama can be a little too predictable, the lines a bit too ordinary, and the characters kooky caricatures. Some of this may have worked better on stage. Kooij's Boordevol in particular is so relentlessly shrill here that he's sometimes hard to watch, and his eventual change of heart could be more convincing.
Still, right now there are worse ways to spend a couple hours than to watch this crew's cheerfully silly singing and dancing, as the formidable Nurse Klivia puts people first. Maybe she would consider a world tour.
Reviewed by Harry Jacobs Summers
Nursing Editor: Sandy Summers, MSN, MPH, RN
Reviewed December 20, 2004
The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board Members or Advisory Panel of The Truth About Nursing.