As Good As It Gets (15)

Directed by James L Brooks
Starring Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr

Nominated for a number of Oscars including acting ones for the main three, this is a slushy soft centred romantic comedy, that should come as no surpise to followers of James L Brooks work (Tearms of Endearment, Broadcast News).
It features Nicholson as Melvin Udall, a thoroughly nasty bigot at the outset. He hates everything and everybody apart from waitress Carol(Hunt), who is the only one allowed to serve him at his local eaterie. We also meet Simon(Kinnear), Melvin's gay neighbour, an artist who gets attacked by a hustling model and his pals and is left penniless. Naturally the cantankarous Melvin is softened by love, and pays for Carol's son's medical treatment and falls for Simon's horrid dog, before the trio embark on a trip to see Simon's parents. Can Simon rediscover his artistic touch? Will Carol and Melvin get together?
This is a nicely amusing character driven film, with no guns or explosions. The characters are interesting and involving, especially Helen Hunt as Carol and Greg Kinnear as Simon. Nicholson mainly pulls faces and goes through his well worn twitches and snarls, but does manage to make the initially monsterous Melvin a character we care about. However, I just could not swallow the rather elderly Nicholson and the perkily youthful Hunt as a believable couple. Melvin is closer to Carol's MOTHER in age, and it is quite honestly hard to know what she would see in him. His acts of kindness are far outweighed by his wierd personality. OK, so Nicholson has supposedly legendary sex appeal, but the age gap was a distraction for me.
Former chat show host Kinnear is surprisingly good in a role that sometimes borders on the cliched- well he is an artist, he MUST be gay! The cute doggie, the hairdo etc. However, the character is nicely developed, and the film is as much about Simon's adjustment after being attacked as anything. Carol is also a bit of a cliched role- single mom, sick child, medical costs problems, dating difficulties, heart of gold, yada yada yada.. However, her character too, is allowed to develop, and Hunt is impressive as the struggling waitress. Although why she doesn't tell Melvin to go take a running jump is beyond me!
Over acting from Cuba Gooding Jr (now THERE'S a surprise), Nicholson's closed eyes sneer, the cutsie doggie- all things I could have done without, but this was a quietly enjoyable film, interesting characters, an involving if soft centred plot, pretty good acting from Hunt and Kinnear. How long can Jack play the romantic lead though? 6/10.

March 1998

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