As Good as It Gets (VHS, 2000, Spanish Subtitled & Packaging)

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"What if this is as good as it gets?" -Jack Nicholson

Oct 27, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Hilarious script, well-trained and well-fitting actors. Great atmosphere.

Cons:Two things, but we'll get to that.

The Bottom Line: I'm drowning here, and you're describing the water!


I remember seeing As Good As It Gets way back when it came out in 1997, and hating it. All I could think was "Man, why would anybody fall in love with, let alone like that wippleweed?"

Of course, then I had to go and start getting serious about my cinematic experiences, not taking everything at face value, blah blah blah.

Depending on where you are and what you've done in life, As Good As It Gets could say a number of different things to you. "It's never too late for redemption." "There's more to people than meets the eye." "Sometimes the inspiration comes when you least expect it."

Jack Nicholson plays the central character, Melvin Udall. Melvin is your classic dickhead, an old guy in the next-door apartment who throws your dog down the laundry chute, or approaches you while you're wheelchair bound to reassure you with a line like "Don't worry, you'll be back on your knees in no time." He also has a certain obsessive-compulsive disorder, which causes him to avoid sidewalk cracks like the plague, never wash with the same bar of soap twice, and always use sterilized plasticware rather than germy silverware.

It's all too easy to overlook the kind of verbal abuse that Melvin endures in this two hours, let alone his lifetime. Aside from being told by someone else that he doesn't love anything, he gets called a "sick f*ck" and a "horror of a human being". While it may look easy to react in such a way to the profoundly cruel things Melvin says, you have to realize that, all speculation aside about who cast the first stone, he's only gotten worse because it's been done, and continues to be done, to him. It only takes kindness from one side to stop the evil on both sides, and it's actually Melvin who takes the first step there.

Helen Hunt plays a waitress, Carol Connelly, who works at the restaurant where Melvin dines every morning. Back at home, Carol's son has some terrible feverish attacks. Long story short here, she can't keep a date for long because she cares too much about making sure her son is okay.

Greg Kinnear plays Melvin's next-door neighbor Simon, who lives with his "partner", Frank (Cuba Gooding Jr.) Simon is a sketch artist; he draws people in certain poses, but he has to watch them (the way you would watch any person out there who doesn't know they are being watched) and wait for that "flash" to come over them. In that moment, you see their humanity. As soon as Simon made his little speech about all this, it was then that I realized there was more to this movie than what I remembered. Because I knew exactly what he was talking about.

The story takes off with one of Simon's hired "posers" (Skeet Ulrich, Scream) who happens to have been picked off of a street gang. The other two guys in the gang (one of them instantly recognizable as Randy, also from Scream) show up at Simon's apartment and beat the crap out of him. While he is hospitalized, Melvin is asked to babysit for Simon's dog Verdell.

Melvin and the movie both spring to life as an unlikely kinship develops between him and the dog. Then, when Simon returns home and takes his dog back, you see an unexpected side of Melvin. The rest is a battle between who Melvin wants to be and who he has become, a battle I suspect we are all fighting from time to time.

What really seals the deal is how well the actors fit into their roles, as well as the camaraderie that develops among them. Jack Nicholson's burly presence, squinty eyes and pudgy face fit Melvin's jaded personality to an M. Helen Hunt's simple beauty makes her believable as a mother, since most people see their own mothers as beautiful anyway, ya know. She handles some excellent heart-gripping scenes without overplaying. Greg Kinnear fits the everyman role, which is the easy part, but he has the task of going from inspired artist to guy who is as far down as he's ever been on his luck.

There are two things, though, that keep As Good As It Gets out of the five-star territory.

The first is that there is too much back-and-forth action between Carol hating and loving Melvin in the last half hour. The compliment he pays her in the restaurant (you'll know it when you see it) seems like the ultimate redemption at the time, but ends up being merely one in a string of three or four different speeches he has to keep making to win her back. It gets tedious.

The other thing, and I guess some might say I'm some kind of Amish ten-foot horse for mentioning it, but too much of the humor is derived at Simon's expense just because he's gay. "Carol the waitress, Simon the f-g" seems like a funny line, but it's not nice. Fortunately, Simon does get to make the occasional comeback, such as when Melvin confronts him by asking "Don't you think your life would be easier if..." and Simon snaps back with "Do you consider YOUR life easy?"

Otherwise, this is both a heartstring-tugging and hilarious script. Melvin's big speech about others not knocking on his door is classic. How the man kept a straight face through all that, I haven't a clue. Carol's big "Who needs these thoughts?" speech is also one that will stay in your memory long past the mortal coil.

As Good As It Gets DVD Features
There is a great audio commentary by director James L. Brooks, and he is joined by the leading trio of actors. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French. Aspect ratio = 1.85:1 and this sucker's 2 hours 20 minutes, so make sure you got the time!

Like it or hate it, As Good As It Gets is one that you should definitely see, just so 20 years down the road when people talk about the "good old days", you'll have some credibility. Of course, at the rate we're going, 20 years from now they'll still be playing oldies and talking about Hitchcock, so maybe not.


Recommend this product? Yes

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