Columbia Pictures // 1997 // 139 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // June 21st, 2012
Meet Melvin Udall.
Snatching up seven Oscar nominations, three just for its lead actors (two of whom won), As Good as it Gets went on to become a huge hit at the box office. Twilight Time has snatched up the high def rights to this Columbia Pictures title and released the film in a limited run of 3,000 copies through Screen Archives Entertainment.
Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson, Batman) is a popular author with one small problem: himself. Melvin is an awkward, OCD-afflicted brute who bullies everyone, from his gay neighbor Simon (Greg Kinnear, Flash of Genius) to the waitresses at his favorite local diner. One such waitress, Carol (Helen Hunt, Twister), puts up with Melvin and caters to his specific and very anal retentive food needs. Through a series of events, Melvin helps Carol out with her sick son, just as Simon's life is turned upside down by a botched burglary that leaves him penniless and broken. All these people end up together on a road trip that will stretch everyone's tolerance limits for Melvin's ugly asides, but might also provide each of them with a new lease on life.
As Good as it Gets is a lovely little movie; the story of broken, unhappy people finding each other, and...well, by the end they're still broken and unhappy, but slightly less so. In a time when it seems like every other movie is a blockbuster sequel or superhero epic, it's refreshing to sit through a character driven dramedy that unabashedly tugs on your heartstrings without employing a Celine Dion song.
Writer/director James L. Brooks is a guy I admire. Brooks has been behind some of my favorite stories, including the wonderful balancing act Terms of Endearment, the undervalued and unappreciated I'll Do Anything, and of course TV's longest running animated sitcom, The Simpsons. Brooks has a deft touch at making dialogue ring true, without reveling in clichés or syrupy sentimentality.
As Good as it Gets features Jack Nicholson in one of the best roles of his career (which earned him an Oscar), performing one of the hardest feats for an actor: making us love a bigoted, prejudiced, horrible excuse for a human being. Melvin Udall's filter has been irrevocably damaged and the things that drop from his mouth would make Archie Bunker blush. Jack finds just the right tone for Melvin; it's like watching a kid who can't stop himself from making a complete fool out of every fiber of his being. I've been a Nicholson fan for a long time, but if I had to pick one role that stands out, Melvin Udall is it.
Helen Hunt plays Carol, a down-on-her-luck waitress who has become the object of Melvin's weird affections. Hunt's performance here is nothing short of amazing; her timing and delivery offer a woman who has seen the crappiest hands life can offer, but is still trying to smile through them as much as possible. Her interactions with Melvin are priceless; when the two head to dinner together, it's a marvel of performance and dialogue. As Good as it Gets ended up being a Greg Kinner's breakout film. The actor had spent many years hosting Talk Soup on E!, but here he found a part that would launch him into dozens of other movies and television appearances. 1997 was not a great year for gay characters on the big or small screen, so it's a small wonder that Kinnear's Simon doesn't come off as a negative stereotype. The character is played as a man who's broken but not destroyed, even after a break-in robs him of his savings and looks. Kinnear garnered an Oscar nomination for his work, and deservedly so. Even smaller roles, including a very funny cameo by Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire) as Simon's art dealer, and the frail Yeardly Smith (The Simpson) as Simon's bellowing assistant, are memorable and perfectly executed.
When James L. Brooks is on his game, he's good. When he's on fire, he's the best writer in the business. As Good as it Gets is filled with memorable lines that capture each character perfectly ("Carol the waitress, meet Simon the fag"). It's hard to convey how good it is because the film is so quirky and different. These are the kinds of characters moviegoers rarely see anymore (save for the films of Alexander Payne and the Coen Brothers); human, frail, dejected, funny, normal. As Good as it Gets offers human drama and laughs on a small scale, and in the process becomes a true classic.
Presented in 1.85:1/1080p high definition widescreen, Twilight Time delivers yet another exception small printing Blu-ray release. Although As Good As it Gets isn't flashy, the visual fidelity is terrific. Colors are vibrant with black levels solidly rendered. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is uniformly excellent, though it's not going to give your home theater system a heavy workout. Also included on this disc are English subtitles. The only bonus features are the film's theatrical trailer and an isolated music score by composer Hans Zimmer.
As Good as it Gets lives up to its title; a thoroughly engaging, funny, witty, heartbreaking film well worth any film lover's time. With only 3,000 copies available you may want to move fast before they're all gone.
Not Guilty! This one passes with flying colors!
Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Columbia Pictures
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 139 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Theatrical Trailer
* Isolated Music Score