Let's get straight to the point. If you haven't seen this film, you're in for a treat As Good As It Gets is quite simply one of the finest Hollywood films ever made. Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt both received Oscars for their performances but you would have to search long and heard to find a film where acting awards were more richly deserved. You will find moments in this film that are some of the most touching, rewarding and uplifting ever seen on the big screen. In parts, it's hilariously funny but though billed as a romantic comedy (frankly, I usually hate the genre) it has an awful lot more than the usual platitudes with which these films tend to deal. With strong supporting roles from Greg Kinnear and Cuba Golding Jr, Director James L Brooks presents us with a wonderfully entertaining and charming movie. Nicholson's performance is as brilliant as we've have come to expect but Helen Hunt's is remarkable - a real tour de force. The nuances and strength of her acting are quite amazing.
The DVD itself is standard - trailers, scene selection, audio set -up but no Making Of, though the Director's commentary is a useful bonus. Picture quality and sound are excellent.
on 18 December 2009
James L Brooks conjures up a glorious dark comedy with a bravado performance from Jack Nicholson and a wonderfully sentimental Helen Hunt that rightfully won Oscars and is a complete joy to watch and laugh and maybe even shed a tear or two.
Opening with Jack Nicholson's Melvin treating his neighbour's dog with no respect whatsoever and seeing his immediate uncaring action delivers the tone for some dark no holds barred comedy.
Greg Kinnear's protagonist Simon is gay, which Melvin is always keen to mention. Where there has been a heavy stamp on homophobia in recent times it hasn't stopped films and TV shows ruling it out, Little Britain and Scrubs often include such ideologies which provide laughs and thankfully, this film knows it is taking the mike and respects the boundaries of sexual orientation without demeaning the character. The stand up at the end shows that sexual orientation is insignificant to a person anyway. Like Dogma, you can accept it seriously or not, and it is simply brilliant to not take it seriously, it is more enjoyable to take it as a comedy, not a drama.
Bar your gay jokes there is some wonderful comic acting from the stars to gain some chuckles. Nicholson's honest blurbs are hilarious, Hunt's bluntness with Melvin is charismatic and though his character can be annoying, Kinnear brings a slice of depression humour to the picture.
Sex, romance, bullying, robbery, dog bashing, obsessive compulsive disorder, racism and in general any ordinary situation like ordering food gets a full out comic depiction that is simply great. In a world that is confounded by rules it is great to see some people like to break them.
The plot itself keeps itself interesting through some cheeky styling of character development. Melvin is a cynical uncaring man and through a reluctant helpful act starts to learn the foundation of good will.
Hunt's Carol is also given a working over through some tough speeches of honesty and integrity that generate the soft side of the picture.
Her son with the illness is very touching and the improvement in time may well make you cry owing to some carefully thought out dialogue and scripting. From laying in bed, to attending school to playing football this slow progression of health to happiness is well and truly heart warming.
Nicholson is fantastic giving us that glorious knowing too much grin and Hunt is a shining mum figure and the supporting cast add some extra ounces of comedy and drama.
Brookes provides us with a glorious selection of scenes depicting the hard nature of OCD that all work out to make this a perfect orchestra of a comedy.
on 15 April 2001
At first it seems boring. Give it time. Please give it time. One of the executive producers of the always superb Simpsons, James L. Brooks writes and direcs this superbly funny and slow moving movie about a novelist with OCD who is extremely rude to almost anyone. Full credit has to go to James L. Brooks for achivieving such a brilliant film and having the patience to direct a film where nearly every scene is a slow one and the script is so simple and so out of action. The beaty of the film lies in two areas: The writing and the acting. Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt (she plays a waitress in the restaraunte where Nicholson eats every morning) both put on exceptional performances as their characters while in the script is pure genius as we get some fantastic one liners which will make you laugh out loud every time you see it. Make no mistake, As Good as it Gets is the sort of film you can watch again and again. With great acting, superb lines and loads oflaughs, this is a film that simply cannot be missed.
on 24 February 2006
I can't remember what it was that made me go to see this at the cinema but I am sure glad I did. Read a synopsis and it sounds contrived, implausible, a Jack vehicle where he can ham it up (which he does with aplomb). But this film is so much more than that. Nicholson is truly great as Melvin, the OCD suffering romance novelist who lacks any social skills at all, he is anti-semitic, homophobic, racist, dog-ist and hates dirt, contact or any changes to his routine. He is so prejudiced you could almost say he isn't - he just hates everyone. Except he doesn't. He goes to the same table at the same cafe every day - perhaps to indulge his OCD - but maybe because he is in love with Carol the waitress who is the only person who can tolerate him. The film follows what happens when Simon, the gay neighbour (wonderfully played by the straight Greg Kinnear as a proper character rather than a cliche), gets attacked and almost dies. His dog ends up in Melvin's care and slowly but surely the little dog opens up a chink in Melvin's armour that exposes the lonely person underneath. He allows himself to feel - but this means his tightly ordered life starts to unravel and he starts to develop a relationship not only with Simon but with Carol too. As Simon wallows in depression, Carol has problems of her own as her son is asthmatic and is often in hospital. Melvin changes her life when he pays for her son to see a private doctor so that she can continue to work and the effect of this one gesture has an incalculable effect. There is an incredible scene where Carol tries to write a thank you letter and talks to her mother about the way her worries over Spencer allowed her to force down her own feelings of loneliness. Helen Hunt truly deserved her Oscar for such a nuanced and complex portrayal of a complex and real character. If only more parts as good as this were written for women. Touching, funny and painful in equal measures, each character is explored and shown to be a vulnerable human being with a story to tell. Whatever inspired James L Brooks' amazing screenplay I don't know but he obviously has a genius for seeing people and for showing their complexity and inner beauty, not to mention the humour and hope that can be found in almost any situation. The musical score is whimsical, almost old school, and gives an impression of a timeless kind of New York, one that is full of diversity and community. Carol in particular is streetsmart, wise-cracking, hard-working, decent and intelligent, she has all the qualities that make a wonderful person but as Melvin asserts 'I bet no-one notices that about you'. There are so many truisms like that within the film that it uplifts the story from a mere romantic comendy to being a truly great commentary on the nature of love and humanity itself. I have happily watched this film many times and it always makes me feel uplifted. To the people who just 'don't get it' - it says more about you than about the film if you don't.
If this isn't the best film ever made, it's at least among the top ten. However, classifying this a "romantic comedy" applies a grievous misnomer to a film of great importance. Only superficially humorous, this film is rather a tragedy in the finest Sophoclean tradition. The "professional" critics, uneasy with the power of the story and Nicholson's performance, have mis-categorized this film in almost every way. It's a story of hubris, an inflated ego and intelligence, challenged by an envious world concerned only with its daily survival.
The story concerns a professional writer [Nicholson] living alone in a New York apartment. His gay neighbour dotes on one of those yappy, scruffy dogs "cliff-house" dwellers seem to favour. Melvin Udall, the writer, suffers almost countless compulsive disorders, exacerbated by his urban life. He avoids cracks in the sidewalk, is obsessive about cleanliness and, cloistered by his work, incapable of everyday discourse with other people. Opening with him disposing of the dog, Nicholson sets the tone of the film in its first moments. What seems cruel and inhuman is simply the expression of a man easily perturbed by minor irritations. Which is crueler, disposing of the dog, or keeping one in urban confinement?
Although the dog, Verdell, is rescued [to go on to stunning visuals later in the film], Udall is confronted by his neighbour and blurts his aversion to Simon's homosexuality. As a writer who's set himself apart from the world surrounding him, it's not an unexpected attitude. His vehemence is an almost predictable reaction. Offending people, even when he doesn't intend it, keeps that world at bay and protects his own ego. This isn't a particularly unusual condition among creative people, who are usually viewed by suspicious envy by the rest of the world. The models for Melvin Udall are legion. Patrick White and Xavier Herbert of Australia, George Bernard Shaw in the UK, J.D. Salinger in the US are but examples. Aloof, detached from society, they rarely expressed what are commonly termed "human emotions" to their contemporaries. Udall is following an all too-common pattern.
What is different, but not unique, is Udall's being forced to come to grips with the aptness of his viewpoints. That this realization comes through waitress Helen Hunt is what gives this film an additional fillip of humanity. Hunt [Carol] chastises him, disciplines him, harries him, but in the last analysis, talks to him - as an equal. She refuses to submit to his overbearing demeanor which gains his grudging respect. Learning of her son Spencer's asthmatic condition, he provides help with the only resource he can give - money. He doesn't do it for altruistic reasons - he's being selfish, wanting her to return to wait on him at the restaurant. But the act opens his world which he tentatively, grudgingly begins to explore. The exploration is fraught with feints, mis-steps and errors, but he continues the effort. He's reluctant; it's a massive challenge for someone who's held himself intact alone for so long.
Classifying this film as a comedy is due mainly to Nicholson's ability to deliver stinging one-liners a viper would envy. No-one else in Hollywood could have entered this part with a finer track record in delivering the scathing character assassination, the piercing insult, the scornful rebuke. One can envision other "romantic comedy" couples [to remain unnamed] who might have been cast in these parts. The image is hollow and flat. Nicholson is unmatched at biting wit delivered with facial expressions that a Falstaff couldn't convey.
It is, of course, Helen Hunt who emerges as the wonderful surprise as an unexpected talent as the single mother struggling for survival. Caught for years in a stultifying TV sitcom, Hunt became visible to movie audiences through some simplistic roles - until this one. From this film, one can hear the grinding teeth of envious peers who will be hard pressed to match this performance. Suffused with grace even in adversity, she achieves complete mastery of what was needed for the role. One scene alone will reside in your memory. The pressure overwhelms her and she breaks down in a storm tears. "Women's tears" have long been a mainstay of Hollywood gender allotment. Hunt, however, fights the breakdown every step of the way, her conflicting emotions flashing across her face as the camera moves to close-up. Could you do it? Can any other actress match it? Possibly, but not likely. Her Academy Award was richly deserved. She's not been given a proper occasion to display these talents since AGAIG, but we can only hope another opportunity will arise soon.
Those who've criticised this film on these pages and elsewhere should sit down in front of their screens quietly and undisturbed and look again. If you're prejudiced by the label "romantic comedy" [which is understandable given how many such films are issued by Hollywood], strip the label from your mind and view this film again. You may join me in saying it will be a long time before the quality of this film is matched. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
on 15 April 2006
Some films need seeing more than once to fully appreciate them... and here's one. First time through the superb black comedy of this story of Melvin Udall - "a truly awful human being" - dominates your reactions. His incredible rudeness to everyone around him is unexpected, shocking and very, very funny and the tension & laughs it generates grab your immediate and undivided attention but mean you miss a lot on the way.
Second time through the sheer excellence of the acting really hits home. Nicholson's interpretation of Udall's incredibly complex character is superb while Helen Hunt's portrayal of a desperately lonely waitress who's inextricably drawn to him and Greg Kinnear's portrayal of a gay artist struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and Udall's incessant verbal abuse are believable and beautifully touching. And then there's the gay artist's dog... putting in an Oscar level tour de force in the "Best Supporting Canine" section, plus excellent cameo performances from just about everyone else involved. Still very funny but, devoid of the shock of it all, you've got time to fully appreciate the quality of what's on offer and how the characters combine to produce a genuinely moving, multi-layered story about people's need for love and affection.
And then... well there's more to come because as you go back and explore it once again you'll still be laughing - which is some feat for any comedy film - but you may also start to realise that things are not quite as straightforward as you thought. Udall gets the girl he wants but at no time during their relationship does he do anything that isn't based on total self-interest - in fact the only genuine tenderness he shows is towards the dog and, in the end, to the gay artist, leaving you wondering whether in addition to being a suppressed dog lover he may also be a suppressed gay, or indeed whether self interest isn't such a bad thing if it also gives other people what they want, or... maybe not? One thing's for certain: it's getting much deeper, more complex and more thought-provoking than it all seemed to be. Time for another viewing?
on 5 April 2010
A great film for all Jack Nicholson fans, definitely one of his best. One to have in your home DVD collection, as it can be watched again and again, and you'll still be able to laugh at it years down the line!
on 2 September 2000
Although perhaps slightly uninspiring to start this has to be one of the most complete stories committed to film. Both leads deserved their Oscars - of that be in no doubt. Stick with it and you will find yourself emotionally involved in a way no film I have seen has quite managed to repeat. Watching it several times is a must - DVD lets you do this in a clean, good quality picture with a fresh bitrate. Also on this disc the director's commentary is enjoyable with many of the film's cast joining in. Overall a film to place on your DVD shelf, erm, now.
on 31 August 2006
I have only one criticism of this film - and that is that it first appears as generic romcom featuring a lonely heartless man who's life is, over the course of the film, enriched by those around him. Including the token cute animal. I confess, I had to be coerced into watching it by a large group of friends.
However, to actually watch this is to witness the re-writing of the romcom genre. Jack Nicholson takes insulting the people around him to a new and wonderful level, that leaves you crying with laughter, whilst at the same time releasing your inner Melvin and making you feel deliciously wicked at the enjoyment of such base and lowly humour. Helen Hunt is the surprisingly well-coiffed single mother, who remains beautifully human whilst being the heart of the film. Throw in Greg Kinnear and Cuba Gooding Jr's characters as the butts of the gay and black jokes, and you have award winning stuff.
Finally, this film could not be what it is without the pampered pooch that begins the film as the apple of the eye of Simon (the gay neighbour) and transforms into a canine Melvin, even picking up his OCD ticks along the way. 5 stars!
on 17 January 2010
I love it too. I recently sent a copy to my aunt.
In this role, Nicholson is a man you dont know whether to love or hate. As the film progresses, you just fall for his adorable well played character. I watch it over & over. It never dates.