Movie Magazine International

As Good As It Gets

USA - 1997

Movie Review By Blue Velvet

A premier romance novelist, Melvin Udell in reality is an anti-social clinically diagnosed obsessive-compulsive who verbally slams anyone who wanders into his tightly controlled existence. Had Melvin been played by an actor other than Jack Nicholson, James Brooks's "As Good As It Gets" might not have been so laughable. With a cast of Jack, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Shirley Knight, and Cuba Gooding Jr., this romantic comedy bewitches audiences with its hilariously wicked yet thoughtful script packaged nicely by an all-star cast.

Nicholson's character Melvin is so oddly regimented that one of his daily must do's is to take his own sterilized cutlery to a particular booth in a certain cafe situated in New York City's Greenwhich Village. Carol, played by Helen Hunt, is the only waitress there who takes Melvin's order because she feels a remote affection for him. Carol herself suffers an acute obssession for her young son who has chronic asthma. A no-nonsense single mother, Carol is either working or caring for her son.

From his impeccable Greenwhich village apartment, Melvin daily throws obscenities at Simon, the gay artist neighbor across the hall. Played unconvincingly by Greg Kinnear, Simon owns an ultra cute dog which at one point, Melvin secretly deposits in the garbage chute. However, after Simon suffers a dilapidating beating by a gang of gay bashers, Melvin reluctantly takes in Simon's dog. The dog wins Melvin's heart and soon Melvin takes his new canine friend to the cafe where Carol works. The dog brings out a tender part of Melvin and Melvin's newfound charm suprises Carol. Soon Melvin's life has bearing on Carol's and by association, Carol's path crosses Simon's. No strange love triangle develops but each person sets up a crucial dynamic for the other two in the end.

"As Good As It Gets" isn't subtle but Brooks isn't aiming for fans of the all-star cast to be so fault-finding. At least Brooks and co-writer Mark Andrus can peel away the defensive layers of these three New Yorkers to lay bare the characters' vulnerabilities without cheapening the story with sappiness. If the cast doesn't wow you but the line "There's no such thing as a normal boyfriend" does, check out the film.

© 1997 - Blue Velvet - Air Date: 12/24/97

"Movie Magazine International" Movie Review Index

"Movie Magazine International" Home Page