As Good As It Gets
Reviewed by: Israel Canlapan
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr., Skeet Ulrich, Shirley Knight, Yeardley Smith, Lupe Ontiveros, Jesse James (I) / Director: James L. Brooks / Released by: TriStar Pictures
This is a very enjoyable movie whose complex characters were played out convincingly by the actors. In addition, the movie boasts a witty script with a generous serving of catchy one-liners, although on several occasions realism is sacrificed for laughs.
The movie revolves around the obsessive-compulsive Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson), who begins to triumph over this mental illness and his callousness, thanks to an unexpected promise of romance with a peppy waitress-and-hard-working-mom named Carol (Helen Hunt) and the misfortune of a gay neighbor named Simon (Greg Kinnear). I can’t leave out Simon’s tiny shaggy dog for it too plays a role in Melvin’s difficult but apparently winnable struggle with his abrasive and despicable demeanor. While the complexity of the characters is delightful, sometimes I wonder if the movie confuses between Melvin’s deeply held convictions and the crass remarks he tactlessly makes partly due to his mental condition. I also wonder if Melvin’s character transformation is too much too soon as to let him share his apartment with Simon, since Melvin makes it emphatically clear early in the movie that his gay neighbor is not welcome at his doorstep.
Yes, there are elements in the movie that somewhat unsettle me. There is the assumption that sex is to be expected in either a casual date or a blossoming romance outside of marriage. Thankfully, there are moments when this notion is neutralized—no actual sex happens in the story and, at one point, something other than sex is stated as “better” between an unmarried man and woman. Then there is also a woman in the apartment whose lips utter “prayer” and “God” and some other sentimental goodness but is unwilling to extend a simple act of kindness to her crime-befallen neighbor. Lastly, I’m ambivalent about whether Simon’s “gayness” is necessary in the movie. Now this movie is far from gay propaganda. If a lesson one can draw from Melvin’s actions toward Simon is that we don’t have to agree with someone’s lifestyle in order to show love to them, then I withdraw any lingering objections on my part.
“As Good As It Gets” was originally rated “R” but later downgraded to “PG-13”. It includes about three “f” words and a smattering of other offensive language. Carol (Hunt) is seen posing nude for Simon (though no full nudity is revealed). She is also shown in one rainy scene wearing nothing under her wet t-shirt, leaving nothing to the imagination. The Lord’s name is taken in vain several times as well. And, lastly, sexual dialogue is present in several instances.
This is a witty and enjoyable movie for adults who can overlook the precautionary comments listed above. However, be aware that this is not a family movie and one you will certainly not want to take youth to see.
Year of Release—1997