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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Weekend TV Movie Review: As Good As It Gets (1997), Sony Movie Channel

As Good As It Gets
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr
Genre: Romantic Comedy Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: £314 million

Plot: A single mother/waitress, misanthropic author and a gay artist form an unlikely friendship after the artist is assaulted in a robbery

'Formulaic Sitcom-Like Film Where Quality Is Elevated By Jack Nicholson And The Witty And Sharp Script'

As Good As It Gets tells the story of a romantic novelist, Melvin Udall, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. He is also not a people person, is anti-social, he is prone to making frequent homophobic, sexist and racist outbursts. Because of this, he rarely spends time and socialises outside in public that he becomes secluded, within his own home. His encounters with 2 individuals see him forming friendships with 2 people; artist, Simon and Carol the waitress. Simon is openly gay and when he is brutally attacked and set upon by thugs one day, the incident and the repercussions of it not only have an adverse effect on Simon but also on Melvin. When Melvin looks after Simon's dog and becomes fond of it, it forces him to reconsider his behaviour and realising how it affects those around him. As he tries to see things from Simon's perspective, from then on it becomes a catalyst for his recovery, for change and becoming a better person, and making him see and point out the error in his ways.

Though the film is an interesting take on romantic comedy, there is also a humanistic side to it. It is about growth, change, trying to be a better person, and correcting one's mistakes. Which not only do I like a lot but that it emphasises that every action comes a reaction, good and bad.

The characterizations and portrayals come off as being more rounded, as opposed to being clich├ęd: Nicholson as Melvin makes a so-called heartless and inconsiderate man less heartless and more humble. Hunt's Carol acts normal, but who is inundated with Melvin's behaviour, her son is suffering from asthma and she is working to pay the medical bills. Performance-wise, despite Helen Hunt winning best-supporting actress at 1998's Oscars, I must say that with a different actress, say like Michelle Pfeiffer or perhaps Mercedes Reuhl in the role, we might have got even more out of a performance as Carol. Whilst Helen Hunt's efforts are admirable (I enjoyed the scenes with Carol & Simon when they were together), here, it is not quite as particularly surprising or so unusual, nor did it virtually leap right in front of me. The romance between Hunt's Carol and Nicholson's Melvin wasn't particularly believable, either - yet it was simple. Greg Kinnear though was really good as the successful yet insecure artist. As for Cuba Gooding Jr, he was okay but it was a somewhat subdued effort from him and Skeet Ulrich is largely forgettable.

The key to this film is Jack Nicholson who manages to make Udall, both empathetic and a bit of a douche bag, who goes out of his way to make amends for his actions. Had it been a different actor in place of Nicholson, then perhaps what he says and does would have been even more spiteful.

The script is witty, right down to the bare bones, sharp and snappy on occasions, as well as whimsical, but the film is a little overlong in the tooth. The humour is well done and the film is very amusing. Yet underneath those layers and for all of the biting sarcasm and remarks, courtesy of Randall, there is warmth and heart that also makes it grounded, down to earth and pleasing as a film also.

Usually, films with dislikeable and unsympathetic main leads or characters do affect the way we not only view the film but how we take to it: here with Melvin, he had to change his ways. He had to learn when to stop being a douchebag and that being a good human being and doing and saying the right thing at the right time, has a significant bearing and effect on those around him. 

Final Verdict:

As Good As It Gets is a light-hearted drama about a not so nice person, transforming into a better person.

There are complaints that it feels a tad more like a sitcom in tone, due to James Brookes's direction, although the main gripes I had was the length and that Helen Hunt's performance did not blow me away. It should have been a tad shorter and it did go on for far too long than it should have. The storylines themselves aren't as grand either, and therefore, do not justify taking up so much screen time.

Luckily, As Good As It Gets remains thoroughly and highly watchable, right from the get-go, with a story that is engaging and sucks you in.

A modern tale of redemption and in some cases, etiquette, As Good As It Gets is an unconventional rom-com that emphasises on human behaviour and attitudes, and how change is necessary to not only win over people's minds but hearts as well. Especially in the case of love. But for Jack Nicholson, who was stellar and Greg Kinnear, it may not have been always worthy of those other Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and wins in other categories, but still, I enjoyed As Good As It Gets immensely, when it came out 20 years ago, and I still enjoy it today.

Plus, the dog was cute too!


*score updated: 25 June, 2017*

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