In AS GOOD AS IT GETS, Melvin Udall, played by Jack Nicholson, is anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic, misogynist, an animal hater, and obsessive-compulsive. Things go wrong when his homosexual neighbor needs him to take care of his dog and when his favorite waitress needs help taking care of her son. Motivated by selfishness, Melvin pays for a doctor to look after Carol's son so she can return to work. When Simon is released from the hospital, he discovers that he has enormous medical bills. Reluctantly, Melvin agrees to take Simon to Baltimore so that Simon can ask his parents for money. The three of them embark on a journey which will inspire a better life.
AS GOOD AS IT GETS is a good production, but some moral viewers will be offended by Carol's posing nude for Simon to sketch. The movie plays Melvin's ranting and insults for comic effect, but some viewers will be offended by his remarks. Others may be concerned about Simon and his homosexual orientation, but the movie doesn't dwell on his perversions. Finally, the movie shows that prayers can be answered and that God exists. This movie is a heartfelt, but flawed, modern rendering of the transformation of a Scrooge-like character.
(Ro, B, LL, SS, NN, A, D, M) Romantic worldview of a cantankerous man who displays some moral behaviors, with recognition of God & prayer; 17 obscenities, 5 profanities & many insults usually containing sexual innuendo; mild violence with one brief scene where thugs beat up man & man falls off bike; passionate kissing, man begins to grope woman, & male prostitution implied; rear male nudity, rear female nudity, wet T-shirt on female, upper male nudity, & side female nudity where woman poses nude for artist; alcohol use; smoking; and, miscellaneous immorality including a homosexual character, obsessive-compulsive behavior, dog urinating, man drops dog down laundry chute, boy vomits, & stealing.
The politically correct police will have a heyday with AS GOOD AS IT GETS. Melvin Udall, played with zeal and aplomb by Jack Nicholson, is an equal opportunity offender. He is anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic, misogynist, an animal hater, and obsessive-compulsive. He needs to have everything just right, he can’t step on a crack on the sidewalk, and he must be served the same artery-clogging meal every day for lunch at a nearby Manhattan diner by his favorite waitress Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt in her best film work yet). Nobody likes Melvin, but that’s OK with him, because he doesn’t like people either. He is perfectly content working in an unbelievable occupation as a romance novelist. AS GOOD AS IT GETS features Jack Nicholson as good as he gets in an acting tour de force about a horrible man who says and does some horrible things, yet becomes an unlikely Samaritan to those around him.
The movie opens with Melvin dumping a little dog, named Verdell, who has just urinated on him, down a garbage chute. Verdell belongs to Melvin’s neighbor, homosexual artist Simon Nye. Melvin frequently displays his dislike of Simon’s perverse lifestyle, and the feeling of disdain is mutual. One day Simon is beaten up by some thugs and hospitalized. Simon’s art dealer, Frank (played by a dynamic Cuba Gooding, Jr.), goes over to Melvin’s and insists that Melvin take care of Verdell, while Simon is in the hospital. Melvin tries to get rid of Frank by making some racist remarks, but Frank doesn’t take offense. Slowly, Melvin begins to like Verdell.
When Melvin goes to the restaurant one day, he notices that Carol is not there. Inquiring about her absence, he discovers that she is at home, taking care of her asthmatic son. Needing Carol’s help as a waitress, Melvin pays for a doctor to look after Carol’s son so she can return to work. Carol is thankful but insists to Melvin that this in no way obligates her to any sexual favors. When Simon is released from the hospital, he discovers that he has enormous medical bills which he can’t pay. The only option for him is to go visit his parents, who haven’t spoken with him since he revealed he was homosexual. Once more, Frank asks Melvin to help out by driving Simon from Manhattan to Baltimore. Reluctantly, Melvin agrees, but only if he can take Carol along to ensure that Simon doesn’t “do anything funny.” (His real reason for taking her is that he loves her and wants to woo her.) The three of them embark on a journey which will reveal more about their histories and inspire all towards a better life.
Writer/director James L. Brooks has made some of the most memorable comedies in recent times, including the perverse TERMS OF ENDEARMENT and BROADCAST NEWS. His intelligent characterizations and real emotionality are trademarks of his work, and AS GOOD AS IT GETS is no exception. It has good writing, directing and acting. All of the characters perform their best. Even small roles like Cuba Gooding Jr. have good lines and give good performances.
This movie does cut corners, however, on some important story development. For a very real and heartfelt story, there are definitely some unbelievable elements that flaw the movie. First, it is difficult to imagine a young Helen Hunt becoming romantically involved with the aging Nicholson. Secondly, Carol poses nude once for Simon to sketch, which will offend moral viewers. After this moment, both are liberated. Carol feels as if a load has been taken off her shoulders, and Simon feels as if he can find the money by himself to get out of debt. (To think that stripping could be such an easy solution for all of life’s troubles!) This gratuitous and flippant scene stands in stark contrast to the rest of the movie.
Morally, this movie has pros and cons. Nicholson has built a career of playing characters with a short fuse. Here, his ranting and insults are played for comic effect, causing women and African-Americans in the audience to laugh, but some may be offended by his remarks. This rude dude needs his world shaken up to change. At first, he helps Carol and Simon because it helps him, but then he realizes that there is joy in helping others. He sees the importance of taking care of others. Some may be concerned about Simon and his sexual orientation, but the movie doesn’t dwell on his lovers or sexual perversions. Finally, the movie shows that prayers can be answered and that God exists. Carol’s mother tells Melvin that his money is an answer to her prayers. If so, that God certainly does work in mysterious ways. As many as ten films, including AS GOOD AS IT GETS, are being released or expanded on Christmas Day. This movie may be lost in the shuffle, but with clever marketing, it may be around to display Nicholson’s tremendous talents and demonstrate a flawed, but heartfelt modern rendering of the transformation of a Scrooge-like character.
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