As Good as It Gets (1997)

As Good as It Gets (1997) – Sometimes I get bored. Sometimes I get lethargic. Sometimes these feelings overlap. For those time, there is the wide world of cable television where, get this, THERE ARE ALWAYS MOVIES ON! Now my rules for writing reviews is that 1) the movie needs to be completely unedited and commercial-free and 2) I need to watch the movie from beginning to end. Otherwise this site would be filled with reviews of “Christopher Walken’s watch monologue from Pulp Fiction” or “that seriously kickass car accident in Final Destination 2” or whatever else I happen to flick through on a constant quest for the mythical “best thing on.” Every now and then I’m flipping through the guide and I see “oh, this movie’s starting right now” and I watch the whole damn movie. Such was it that I came to watch As Good as It Gets for the first time in 15 years.

My desire to see all the Oscar-nominees goes back to my childhood and that was the main motivator to see this one. Plus it was from James L. Brooks, who I was aware from The Simpsons (still in its period of greatness). It was the last film to win both Best Actor and Best Actress and it would have had a decent shot at Best Picture if it wasn’t for the massive awards juggernaut that was Titanic. Watching it again, it seems not quite the type of movie that gets Best Picture nominations usually. That’s not really a bad thing. It’s a smaller story about an obsessive compulsive author (Jack Nicholson) who falls in love with a waitress (Helen Hunt) and befriends his gay neighbor (Greg Kinnear, nominated for Best Supporting Actor).

The main strength of As Good as It Gets is the nuanced characterization. Granted the depiction of obsessive compulsive disorder is very Hollywood (especially in how, spoiler alert, he pretty much conquers it at the end of the movie just because he’s in love) but reclusive author Melvin Udall is one of the last great Jack Nicholson performances (after this there was pretty much just The Departed; the rest he seemed to phone in, but maybe Jack will surprise us sometime in the future). Helen Hunt does solid work here. I don’t know why I always underrate her (maybe because I felt Mad About You fell into kind of a rut around this time) but she tends to do well with good material. Oscar-worthy? I don’t know, but looking back I only saw one of the other nominees in the category (Kate Winslet) and Hunt was better. Greg Kinnear does well, trying to rise above the usual gay stereotypes still pretty prevalent in the 90s (as his lover, Cuba Gooding Jr. fares much less well). If you are a fan of Jack Nicholson, this is a must-see. Everyone else, it’s worth watching if you catch it on cable some time.

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  1. […] As Good as It Gets (1997) – This is a review of that long ago Jack Nicholson movie, but it does contain this nice aside: Plus it was from James L. Brooks, who I was aware from The Simpsons (still in its period of greatness). […]

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