The Man Can’t Help It!
The different lives of three characters are intertwined as their lives change forever.
As Good As It Gets – Trailer, CrackleUK and photos © Sony Pictures Releasing
“You make me want to be a better man” is a rare, almost one-off compliment given by one of the lead characters in this romantic drama-comedy film. This character is a man with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and hatred of people. It is said to the woman he’s loved from afar. With this, the woman responds by kissing him passionately, deeply touched by this platitude from the man.
The man loves this lady so much that he starts taking the medication he hates, to become the better man he wants to be, for her to love. It will help him, indirectly altering his long-term routine and familiar way of being in unfamiliar waters. It is worth it to be with her. She’s served him – as part of his daily routine – every day in the restaurant she works in and knows and understands this was difficult for the man to say.
He’s who can’t control what he says, showing his distrust and dislike of others in his speech and actions, which means he comes over as rude and obnoxious. She is one of the few people he trusts in a world he fears, his world is full of routine, repetitive behaviour, mistrust of people, germs and cracks in the pavement. She is Carol Connelly and he is Melvin Udall. The film is As Good As It Gets (1997).
The legacy of this quote lives on and inspires, with a person changing their life and entering the unknown and taking risks in the stable routine of their lives, in the hope they can accomplish a goal or dream. I personally love this quote, and this theme is often seen in the movies where usually the protagonist risks all for love.
It’s also seen in the film The Great Gatsby (2013) movie, where it’s revealed the penniless Jay Gatsby meets and falls for rich Daisy (later Buchanan). After coming into some money, he buys a mansion that can be viewed from her home and holds extravagant parties in the fervent hope it will impress her. Other movie characters inspired include Amy (Amy Schumer) in Trainwreck (2015) who completely changes her lifestyle to impress Bill Hader as Aaron. But more of that review soon. However back to the movie in hand…
As Good as It Gets starts with an elderly lady enthusing happily to her husband as she leaves her apartment. It’s tulip season and.. some muttering is heard, her face turns to disgust as a man leaves the lift. Despite the season he’s wearing gloves, it’s her neighbour Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson). Udall is coaxing a dog to come to him, the dog is recoiling in fear and attempts to pee.
Udall lunges at the dog, then puts the now peeing dog down the garbage chute. Soon after, the dog’s owner Simon (Greg Kinnear) leaves his apartment calling for his dog.. he spots Udall. Udall claims not to have seen the dog and insults the man with anti-gay comments relating to Simon’s homosexuality. As Udall leaves, a nervous, shaken Simon tells him he doesn’t love anything.
Udall lives alone in a neat, tidy apartment. He locks the door with a number of locks, locking and unlocking the front door five times, then he puts on the light and off the light in the same repetitive manner. He washes his hands in boiling water – so hot you can see the steam – and using two bars of soap repetitively then discarding them. He then starts work as a romantic novelist, at home and relaxed we see a different side to this character full of love, passion and understanding of both men and women. A complete contrast to the man we’ve seen and heard previously.
Simon is holding an art show and revealed to be a sensitive, sweet type. Once reunited with his dog, he and his friend Frank (Cuba Gooding Jr) hear of his dog’s trip down the shute, Simon is visibly upset. After Simon gets a barrage of abuse and leaves the situation. Frank takes charge of confronting Udall. This confrontation shows us the extent of Udall’s apparent fear and anxiety, He edges away from him and he requests not to touch him as he is grabbed by him, Udall shouts racial slurs at Frank.
Udall attends his favourite restaurant avoiding the cracks in the street, demanding the same waitress and table and disgruntled and rude in a racist manner to the couple sitting at his usual table. We meet his favourite waitress, the only woman who appears to understand him, Carol Connelly (Hunt).
Connelly has a date that evening, and her mother (Shirley Knight) is babysitting as her son is unwell. After Udall orders a specific fry up, Connelly jokes it will kill him, he replies saying everyone will die including her ill son. She’s shaken, hurt tells him not to talk that way calling him a “crazy fuck”. He sees the error of this. Later it’s revealed her son can have asthma attacks which can threaten his life.
Connelly’s dates a success and she enters her apartment with a man kissing passionately. However, the pair are disturbed by some coughing from her son. She rushes to his aid, her mother insists Connelly returns to her date. However, after an icky moment, her date leaves, no longer interested. Simon’s friend finds him a model for his latest artwork. A model is found, and the sensitive, artist Simon tells this man how he works finding humanity in that person.
However, the man distracts him, as some friends rob Simon’s place. After stumbling upon them, Simon is brutally attacked and left for dead. As Simon, is hospitalised, Frank insists Udall looks after Simon’s dog and Udall is shaken, anxious at the thought of this… however he agrees, letting the dog into his perfectly structured routine little realising this small helpful action will change his life forever.
This film continues to be a delight from this point on, especially with the character arc of these three characters. Nicholson is fantastic, and in depicting this role he shows a great understanding of his character’s difficulties, their effects on him when he has insight into the effect of his behaviour on others be it a dog or a trusted friend. In his performance, you feel his anxiety and fear, as his routine is altered or his fears are confronted. Hunt is in her best role, and her chemistry with Nicholson intensified as her character’s feelings for him increased.
As her son’s health improves you can feel her loss of the caring role turn to anxieties then joy and acceptance as he improves in health. Kinnear also in an amazing performance, was a sympathetic and likeable character. His scenes with Nicholson were startling at the start, with Simon’s apparent nervousness showing. Interestingly I read Kinnear was nervous about working with the Hollywood star. In their later more touching scenes, showed a great rapport between the actors and their characters.
Support comes from Shirley Knight as Connelly’s mother, with some great mother-daughter scenes and comic one-liners. Gooding Jnr likewise has some great scenes with the leads. And there is a lovely wonderful wee cameo from an actor to look out for, who plays the role so sensitively I was cheering for him as much as his co-stars in his short but sweet scenes.
This films acting talent was recognised at the Oscars with Jack Nicholson winning Best Actor in a Leading Role. Additionally, Helen Hunt’s portrayal of Carol won Best Actress. Greg Kinnear was nominated sadly missing out to Robin Williams for Best Supporting Actor. However, if Oscars were given for impersonations, then Kinnear wins the Oscar. As do look out for the scenes in this film, where Greg Kinnear mimics his co-star Nicholson, the pitch, drawl and accent are perfection and it really is as good as Jack gets.
Annual Classic Quotes Blogathon 2017, No 15 and the Always A Bridesmaid Blogathon 2019 No 50
This film review was added to Flapper Dame’s The Second Annual Classic Quotes Blogathon. It was also added to Hollywood Genes’ Always A Bridesmaid Film Blogathon. Jack Nicholson films reviewed here are listed as Heartburn, One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest, Mars Attacks, Easy Rider, Prizzi’s Honor, The Shining and Terms of Endearment. He also features in his own blogathon starting HERE. Helen Hunt stars in my reviews of Peggy Sue Got Married and Girls Just Want to Have Fun. Greg Kinnear stars in Mystery Men. Shirley Knight stars in Juggernaut.