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Movie Review: As Good As It Gets

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Nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, As Good As It Gets became one of the surprise blockbusters of 1997. Jack Nicholson dispenses insults with his one-in-a-billion sense of delivery, and if you like serious comedies, this is the film for you. Helen Hunt is masterful in her portrayal of a hard-luck single mother who befriends Nicholson's oddball character, and Greg Kinnear does well as the neighbor who faces hard times himself. Home to a well-written screenplay exhibiting superb direction from James L. Brooks, As Good As It Gets makes a place for itself in the annals of movie history.

Jack Nicholson stars as cranky, bitter, semi-shut-in novelist Melvin Udall who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Everyday, like clockwork, Melvin eats breakfast at the same diner where he brings his own utensils and is waited on by the same waitress (the only one who will agree to serve him), Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt). Despite his eccentricities, the two form a sort of unspoken understanding of each other. Meanwhile, Melvin's neighbor, Simon Bishop (Greg Kinnear), a homosexual artist who is often the object of Melvin's bigoted comments, entertains the elite art circles of New York. Simon's dog forms a further divide between the two when Simon drops him down the trash chute to stop his barking.

When Simon is attacked in his home and left beaten and unable to create his art, all of his friends abandon him and the bills are left unpaid. Melvin, having reluctantly agreed to take care of the dog in Simon's absence, develops an attachment to the dog. Meanwhile, Carol Connelly leaves the diner in order to better take care of her sick son. Distraught, Melvin offers to pay for treatments in order to have Carol back as his waitress once again. With each character struggling with personal tragedies, the three slowly develop a respect for each other and a friendship which only grows.

Co-stars Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt swept the leading role Oscars for the male and female categories, and their onscreen relationship is one of the more memorable in cinema history. Forming a love/hate relationship and bonding through their various travails, Melvin Udall and Carol Connelly are one of the true odd couples of tinsel town. In fact, if a cast of lesser abilities had played the roles, the film would have been a drastic failure because such relationships would simply be unbelievable. Playing the role of Melvin's gay neighbor Simon, Greg Kinnear made a name for himself and entered into the hallowed halls of the who's who of Hollywood.

With an all-star cast that includes several Academy Award winners (Cuba Gooding, Jr. won for Jerry Maguire), As Good As It Gets rests its fortunes on the backs of its quirky and sometimes neurotic band of characters. More than able to meet the task, Nicholson, Hunt, and Kinnear strike gold with this Best Picture candidate which combines drama and comedy into a unique, one-of-a-kind experience. With one-liners zinging from Nicholson in almost every scene, you'll be hard pressed not to laugh out loud. And with Kinnear and Hunt to bring a serious note to Nicholson's strange character, As Good As It Gets breaks into the ranks of a short list of all-time great films. It's one you definitely won't want to miss.

Britt's Rating: 9.4/10

About Britt Gillette

  • Baronius

    One of Nicholson’s worst. The Academy has made a lot of mistakes over the years, but this stands among the least justifiable Oscars. It wasn’t just that he phoned it in; he’s been doing that for years. It wasn’t just that he left poor Helen Hunt to create chemistry on her own; she’s won Emmys doing that. What made the performance so bad was that the movie was supposed to be about growing. He sat in the middle of the film like a tree stump. That was supposed to pass for character development?