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   AS GOOD AS IT GETS (1997) 

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CAST
Jack Nicholson
Helen Hunt
Greg Kinnear
Cuba Gooding Jr.
Skeet Ulrich
Shirley Knight
Yeardley Smith

DIRECTED BY
James L. Brooks

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 138 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Comedy/Romance/Drama

Won Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress. Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Kinnear), Best Picture, Best Editing, Best Original Score and Best Original Screenplay.


Nobody does true to life characters like James L. Brooks. And though everyone plays a stereotype in this film – burned-out waitress, gay painter, obsessive-compulsive writer – the actors somehow breath individuality and soul into their parts, enabling you to detest them one minute and break your heart the next. Jack Nicholson plays the lead, Melvin, an extremely successful fiction writer, who also happens to be crazy. He washes his hands constantly, turns the lock on his door five times, walks down the street avoiding cracks in the sidewalk and eats lunch at the same time, same place, same table, same food every day. Which is where he meets Carol, the only waitress in the place who will serve him. She works to support her ill son, and though Melvin is strange and says things that are grossly inappropriate, she is drawn to his vulnerability and back-handed generousity.

Melvin's neighbor is a gay painter named Simon, played by Greg Kinnear. Melvin doesn't like Simon or his dog mainly because they upset his neat-as-a-pin lifestyle. Melvin must have things his own way or he can't function, which wreaks havoc in the lives of everyone around him. But those tables are turned when Carol doesn't show up for work and Melvin is tossed out of the restaurant. His world is thrown into further disarray, when he is forced to take care of Simon's dog, after Simon is brutally attacked and robbed in his own apartment by one of his models.

In a effort to bring order back to his life, Melvin arranges to fix the things in his new "friends" lives – which just sends his spinning more wildly out of control. This is a film about having the courage to take advantage of the good things life hands you because this moment, these people, this may be as good as it gets. Melvin is terrified of losing his life, his space, so he constantly pushes Carol away by saying or doing the wrong thing. The only reason Melvin is the least bit likeable is because we are shown that underneath all the insults he truly does care for these people. He doesn't have to help Simon or Carol, but he does because he needs them as well.


"Come on in, and try not to ruin everything by being you."

The performances in this film are wonderful. Jack is Jack, which is to say that at some moments he's a little over-the-top, but he makes you like him, as well as root for him, even though the things that come out of his mouth throughout the movie are just not to be believed. You know he's fighting at every moment to say the right thing, that he has good intentions, but he just can't stop himself. Helen Hunt is amazing as a mother who's put so much of her lifeblood into caring for her child, that she's lost touch with being an individual, being a woman. Once he's well, she has to worry about her life and comes to the unwanted realization that she's devestatingly alone. And Greg Kinnear is fabulous as Simon. His was truly the stand-out performance of the film (not including the dog's). He lit up the screen and made me cry on more than one occasion. This could have been a just another "gay neighbor" role, but he played Simon with such subtlety he just about broke my heart. AS GOOD AS IT GETS shows us what it's like to be flawed human beings. It's a funny, poignant film that will have you rooting for all of it's characters to come out on top.


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