Sunday, June 21, 2015

As Good as It Gets

Movie Name: As Good as It Gets
Year of Release: 1997
Director: James L. Brooks
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr., Skeet Ulrich, Shirley Knight, Yeardley Smith, Lupe Ontiveros
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

James L. Brooks has made a name for himself with the TV shows he has both created, written and produced, namely "Mary Tyler Moore Show", "Rhoda", "Taxi" and of course his involvement in the long running "The Simpsons". In the last 3 decades the director has tackled 6 features, with the 80s being his most successful decade yet: "Terms of Endearment" and "Broadcast News" were great critical and commercial hits. "As Good as It Gets" was his big hit of the 90s. It focuses on the story of three core characters, specifically Melvin Udall, a cranky and obsessive compulsive writer, Carol a waitress single mother who works in the cafe where Udall eats, and Simon, an artist and a neighbor of Udall's. When Simon is attacked in his apartment, Melvin is coerced into taking care of Simon's dog. Simon's recovery doesn't go very well, and he's forced to go to Baltimore and ask his parents for help, and Melvin reluctantly agrees to go along, and ends up inviting Carol for the trip as well. This trip allows for the relationships between these unique characters to develop in unexpected ways.
James L. Brooks career as a director has focused on stories where quirky characters function within the confines of traditional family dynamics. These eccentric characters are usually cathartic elements for the remainder of the characters that inhabit his stories - this has happened in "Terms of Endearment" with Shirley MacLaine's Aurora, Holly Hunter's Jane character in "Broadcast News" and now Jack Nicholson's Melvin Udall character. His most successful stories are comprised of characters that are more than simple cliches - there's a delicate creation of a tapestry of relationships, which makes these films engaging, humane and also comical. "As Good as It Gets" benefits from a great cast, with Jack Nicholson deserving his third Oscar, with good supporting turns from Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear. A good film worth watching.