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USA 1997
Directed by
James L. Brooks
138 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

As Good As It Gets

James L. Brooks reworks his 1983 debut hit, Terms Of Endearment, in this polished mainstream rom-com which swings wildly between the acerbically funny and the wincingly sentimental. The former is provided by Jack Nicholson as Melvin, a misanthropic writer with a severe case of O.C.D. who doesn’t like anyone or anything and certainly not Jews, gays or dogs, the latter by the rest of the characters but largely by Helen Hunt as Carol a waitress and single mother with a sick child, and Melvin's gay neighbour Simon (Greg Kinnear) and his dog.

Needless to say, Nicholson makes for a first class misanthrope, and is even more fun thanks to his character's tics and quirks and the well-turned screenplay by Mark Andrus and Brooks which is consistently amusing despite its predictable trajectory. Entertaining as Nicholson is, how he and Hunt picked up the Oscars for Best Actors of the year is a mystery (compare Nicholson here with his much more challenging performance in The Pledge the following year for which he was not even nominated), particularly as there is never any of the chemistry evident between them that there was between and he and MacLaine in TOD (for which both picked up Oscars, a communality which says a lot about Hollywood values). Greg Kinnear was nominated for a Supporting Oscar for his performance but didn’t win however the film did showcase his talents and if not exactly achieving marquee status, he has turned in some good work since.The dog (Jill) also acquits herself handsomely.

The common premise of good-looking young woman and over-the-hill male is implausible from any realistic point-of view (although Melvin does have money so maybe it's not all that implausible) but Brooks is a master of old school, crowd-pleasing, the bantering between the two leads being very much in the tradition of Gable and Colbert in Capra's It Happened One Night (1934) and fol-de-rol though it is, we can't help but go along for the comfortable and comforting ride.




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