Wednesday, 14 February 2018

As Good as It Gets (1997)

I added As Good As It Gets on my watchlist a long time ago, probably someone suggested it to me, I don't know. I didn't even know what the film was about. I only knew it was a romantic comedy with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. It's only after the movie was over that I learnt it got a Best Picture nomination, which totally explains why I liked a romantic comedy so much. 

Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholsons) is a cranky, misanthropic and obsessive-compulsive romantic novelist who is rude with everyone, including Simon (Greg Kinnear), his gay painter neighbour, and Carol (Helen Hunt), the waitress that serves him lunch every day. His life is turned upside down when Simon is brutally beaten, and Melvin is entrusted with Simon's dog. 

I'm not going to add anything else there because it's pretty obvious where the movie's headed. It's a simple and basic story, so simple and basic that I'm not sure it can be called 'story'. In fact, the plot goes absolutely nowhere and it's all a little bizarre and not so much believable. And yet, this is one of the most interesting and involving stories I've seen recently. It's the kind of story you can't put down once you started it. 

The lack of a plot isn't important anyway because As Good As It Gets is the kind of film that relies entirely on its characters and the relationships between them. The three main characters, the cranky writer, the zesty yet insecure waitress and the sensitive artist, are all well-defined and interesting characters. They are not perfect. Each of them has some flaws, some more than others, and that's what makes the unbelievable story feel real. Also, there's nothing special about them, they are just ordinary people we meet every day and that have the same problems many others have, but the way they were written makes them very compelling and easy for us to sympathize with them. You'll end up feeling sorry for an asshole and not being bothered by the predictable happy ending, that's how good the writing is.

TriStar Pictures
Another strong element in the script is the dialogue. It's sharp, witty and quirky. It's humorous and although some jokes and gags don't really land, it's just a delight.

That said, great characters and great dialogue would be nothing without a great cast, and As Good As It Gets sure has that. Jack Nicholson does an outstanding job as the obsessive-compulsive writer. He captures all the flaws of his character as he delivers one of his most hilarious performances ever. He nails the black humour and makes you care about his character. Helen Hunt is fantastic as the troubled single mother, bringing so much warmth to the character, and she shares such a tender and sweet chemistry with Nicholson. Another great performance comes from Greg Kinnear as the gay painter. Just like Nicholson and Hunt, he also brings charms and warmth into the film.

If I were to complain about something in As Good As It Gets that would definitely be the running time. Considering how thin and predictable the plot is, the film goes on too long. 2 hours and 20 minutes is just too much time.


  1. I've seen the poster but I haven't seen the movie. I have to remember that

  2. I never liked this film when it first came out and I still don't like it. I found it too sappy at times and I also though Jack Nicholson was just being himself and not really acting. It's just one of those films that never worked for me. Then again with the exception of Broadcast News, nothing by James L. Brooks as a director works for me.

    1. I'm sorry it didn't work for you. As for Brooks, I saw only Spanglish and it didn't work for me. I'm not even sure I finished it.

  3. I love this movie even with the irritating Helen Hunt. I remember when she won the award and she was with Hank Azaria at that time and every time she won an award, she would thank him but kept saying to my know was begging for her to say his name or even call him sweetheart...something. Ok I digress, I loved Greg Kinnear and thought he should have been up for more awards. It is charming and very sweet but I know that her road would be difficult with a person with a mental illness but she could do it.