AS GOOD AS IT GETS
But romance novelist Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) is not taking
his pills, so he must wash his hands after they've come in contact
with well, anything. He must lock his door three times
in quick succession. He must eat breakfast at the same diner every
day, at the same table, with his plastic cutlery. And he must
always have the same waitress: Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt).
Carol is a single mother, scraping by on a waitress's salary,
living with her mother and her asthmatic son Spencer (Jesse James).
This puts a serious hamper on her love life, but she has little
choice: Spencer is prone to severe attacks that keep mom deep
in the doctor bills.
Melvin does his best to avoid his gay artist neighbor Simon
Bishop (Greg Kinnear), and Simon's dog Verdell (Jill). In fact,
he's such a misanthrope, he generally tries to avoid everyone.
But when Simon is robbed and beaten by some thugs and must stay
in the hospital for a while, Melvin is saddled with taking care
of the beloved pooch. To a person with OCD, this is like a sledgehammer
through the picture window of his life.
So begins the story of three people who have been dealt some
of life's hardest blows. We gradually learn that all three have
created so many barriers they have difficulty dealing with anyone.
But they all must help each other, and all the layers of protection
must come off before they can do so. The rich relationships between
them are what make this movie so enjoyable. Rarely have I seen
Hunt so engaging; she's created a real 3-D character here, unlike
that of Twister (1996). Kinnear's portrayal of depression
is genuine it is easy to see why Simon is unable to create
when his mounting bills lead toward eviction and even his dog
prefers Melvin now.
But Nicholson is the master craftsman of this movie. His characterization
of Melvin is exquisitely subtle; he is not over the edge this
time. He just needs to have his life in the proper order, and
tries desperately to deal when it is turned upside down. He needs
love like all of us, but destroys every chance he gets with his
abusive manner. And the risks he takes may seem small to those
who don't suffer from OCD, but anyone who has been around someone
with that ailment can see the depth of his struggle. Watching
him and Hunt trying to reach out to each other gives a palpable
sense of their mutual need.
Director James L. Brooks must be credited for creating the depth of these interpersonal relationships, though rumor has it Nicholson had a large hand in the direction. Whoever is responsible, it makes for an enjoyable 2+ hours; humorous, romantic, personal. ****½
See Current Reviews
See FilmQuips Archive