Er, but you didn't come here to listen to me rant about a dog, you came here to find out about my opinions on As Good As It Gets. Very well, then, mine I shall give.
As Good As It Gets is labelled as a romantic comedy, and I suppose that's a pretty good catagory to stick it in, although the romance isn't quite as high as you might expect. On the other hand, since the leading man is Jack Nicholson and the leading woman is Helen Hunt, maybe you didn't expect much. The comedy, however ... Ahh, here we shine.
Just a few disclaimers to get out of the way, as always, before we start. First up, I love Jack Nicholson. He is, without a doubt, one of my all-time favourite actors. And let me say, he's not as bad in person as some people have made him out to be (we met at a dress rehersal for some CBS Presidential gala thingie in Washington D.C. in '93. Goldie Hawn was there too. She didn't impress me, though. <grin>) Helen Hunt is also a favourite of mine, even if I don't get to watch Mad About You like I used to. And hell, with that dog ... I was gone.
The story is really pretty simple. It is about a man named Melvin, who is quite possibly one of the most anal people I've seen in a very long time. Ever see Stephen King's Creepshow? Remember the last story, the really gross and disgusting one about the old guy and the roaches? Well, that was my first impression of Melvin. Thankfully, he wasn't quite so obsessive about germs (actually, with the exception of the silverware problem, this entire trait of his seems to have been dropped within the first 20 minutes or so), however he IS suffering from obsessive/compulsive disorder. On a very large scale. We're talking the need to do everything in fives - ringing buzzers, locking doors, turning on lights, the whole nine yards.
Oh, and he's a bastard.
Carol is our heroine. She's a waitress, and looks as though she has been all of her life. Considering this, she has much the kind of attitude you would expect on someone who's had to do the thankless job of serving hungry, ungrateful customers, who are directly responsible for how much money you make, for twenty years or so. Still, she's not unkind, and very much her own person. She appears greatly loved by her co-workers, adores her extremely sick son, and has the distinct pleasure of being the only one who can serve Melvin. Not because no one else can put up with him (which is it partly), but because it's an integral part of his routine. As you quickly come to learn, you DO NOT break Melvin's routine.
Rounding out the cast is former E! Talk Soup host Greg Kinnear as Melvin's artistic gay neighbor Simon. No stereotyping here. Simon is just what you would expect out of a homosexual painter - he's nice, he's friendly, he's sentimental, and he's nothing but a walking, talking, Nicholson-impersonating plot device. Through Simon's actions, Melvin is able to love something (Verdell, the ultra-cute puppy) for the first time, finds himself opening up to people, and gives the main cast a reason to get together for the crucial Maryland trip that comprises most of the last third of the movie. Melvin and Carol get together (or, rather, decide to consider the idea of being together) through both the direct and indirect action of Simon. He's a nice guy, I liked his character, just that there wasn't a hell of a lot to him.
There's your basic run through of the movie. As Boogie Nights was supposed to be, As Good As It Gets is a story about people. It's not the plot ... essentially, when you get down to it, there really isn't one. But it IS about three people and how their lives, initially only loosely connected, become tightly wound together.
I enjoy movies like this. For being someone who very vocally protests how much she dislikes people, I find individuals fascinating. I liked this movie, I had a lot of fun while I was there ... but looking back on it now, about two weeks later, I find that only two things stick out in my mind: Jack and the Puppy. I've already discussed the problems with Simon (actually, as an idication of how little stuck with me, I'm currently typing his name as "(***)" because I can't remember it), and I had a few with Carol as well.
As I stated earlier, she is a very strong willed woman. She knows who she is, she has a level head on her shoulders, and is (moderately) certain of what she wants. And ... well, that's about it. The character didn't really get the chance to grow in the movie, and I didn't feel any real solid connection to her. She, much like Simon was a stereotypical character, just one that is stereotyped slightly less often than homosexuals.
Hell, for all I know, the character of Melvin could have been generic as well (how many romantic leads have advanced obsessive/compulsive disorders?), but I feel as though Jack Nicholson still could have pulled it off and made the character memorable. Not to say that neither Helen Hunt nor Greg Kinnear failed to make an admirable performance. While I confess I don't see where either were particulary Oscar-caliber (particularly Helen Hunt ... although I might just still be embittered over Jody Foster's snub), they both did well with what they had. However, this story, when you get down to it, is about Melvin, and as Jack Nicholson is want to do, whatever world he is currently in revolves entirely around himself.
It's fortunate, then, that Jack's world is so damned humourous. While I didn't encounter any lines or situations that made me laugh hysterically, there was some great wit running rampant in this script. Lots of "Quote du Jour" material (expect to see many make an appearance when the movie is released to video cassette). And where else could you hope to hear Jack singing "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life" with crusifixees everywhere?
Upon refelction, this movie would really make an excellent play. I could easily see this story on stage, with a three person cast and some slight adaptation, which would allow the characters to really connect with the audience. I think it would do its players justice. Each of them have stories to tell, just that Melvin (ironically, an author), is the only one with the voice to do so in the film. Does anyone know if this actually comes from a play? I don't remember seeing it in the credits, but things frequently slip by me.
As Good As It Gets is an entertaining, humourous, light movie that hints at depth but never quite reaches it. But this is only a niggling problem, since you're having such a great time absorbing what they ARE showing you. I wouldn't recommend going to see it if you'd like a really juicy plot, or some fantastically crafted characters. But if you're stuck at home one night and don't know what else to do with your time, then rent this movie. See it for fun. And see it for the puppy. ^_^