May 9, 2006
As Good as It Gets (1997)
Grade: 37/100

Director: James L. Brooks
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear

What it's about. Melvin (Jack Nicholson) has a problem. Everything he says is offensive. But he's a jerk with a heart of gold, and a lucrative book contract. Despite being a quarter century older than his waitress, Helen Hunt, her only concern in dating him is that he can't say the right thing twenty times in a row, which is the unspoken but apparent path to a leading lady's heart. Plus, he walks funny. You can step on cracks. You're not ten anymore.

Also included in this surreal romantic movie is a gay painter, Greg Kinnear, whose true love is for an ugly small brown dog, who prefers Jack Nicholson, probably because he's won lots of Academy Awards and didn't star in the movie Dear God. Cuba Gooding, Jr. shows up as a non-threatening threatening black man, and the voice of Lisa Simpson also appears as another of Kinnear's friends.

Anyway, Kinnear is assaulted by gay thugs (I don't make this stuff up) and goes to the hospital. So his now homeless dog bonds with his neighbor, racist/sexist/homophobic/obsessive-compulsive Jack Nicholson. Meanwhile, Nicholson is upset because the only waitress who will tolerate him, Helen Hunt, is attending to her sick child. This somehow involves into a road trip to Boston, so prodigal son and gay failure Kinnear can beg money from his folks. But once they get there, Kinnear doesn't even see them, so happy is he to have seen Helen Hunt naked, which is erotic even for a homosexual.

How others will see it. This is one of those films where if Nicholson says something cruel, it's just dreadful, but if Helen Hunt says something equally mean to him, she's just being insightful. This double standard is fair because that she is the prize to be won, and is also in charge of the rules to the contest.

Nicholson, meanwhile, can get his foot in a door only by shacking up with a gay crippled man and his mutt dog, and by paying humongous doctor bills for Hunt's perpetually borderline sick child. This "generosity," obviously done to earn face time with Hunt, only gets Nicholson so far, because he's still prone to oddly insulting (or just plain odd) sayings.

How I felt about it. All of which the audience is supposed to find uproariously funny or heartwarming. We're also supposed to be charmed by the scene-stealing little brown mutt, and by the romance between creepy Nicholson and social miracle worker Hunt. I would be remiss not to note that Hunt has a brief nude scene, like she had in Twister, and in Waterdance. See, there's a reason to rent As Good as It Gets after all. Although the other two films are better, which proves you can't judge a film by its title.