[Screen It]


(1997) (Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild Minor Heavy Minor None
Mild None None None Heavy
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Moderate Minor Minor Mild Mild

Romantic Comedy: An obsessive-compulsive romance novelist must deal with his own neurotic behavior and acerbic demeanor when he's forced to help his gay artist neighbor and a single mother with a sickly son.
Melvin Udall (JACK NICHOLSON) is an obsessive-compulsive romance novelist. With a wicked, sarcastic streak, Melvin freely speaks his mind about his disdain toward others and their lifestyles. Yet he doesn't think twice that he won't step on cracks, always eats with plastic utensils, and that everyone despises him.

Except, of course, Carol Connelly (HELEN HUNT), a waitress at a Manhattan diner who is the only one who will put up with his behavior. She's quite patient with him, but gets upset if he talks about her son Spencer (JESSE JAMES) who has chronic asthma that forces her mother, Beverly (SHIRLEY KNIGHT), to live with them. A person who can't stand Melvin is Simon Nye (GREG KINNEAR), his gay artist neighbor. He knows that Melvin doesn't agree with his lifestyle and that he hates his cute little dog Verdell. Simon's art deal Frank Sachs (CUBA GOODING, JR.), however, often sets Melvin straight with physical threats if he doesn't act properly.

Things change, however, when Simon is beat up by some robbers and Melvin is forced to watch after Verdell. Although he initially hates it, the little pooch soon melts Melvin's icy heart and he not only takes better care of Verdell, but he begins to feel for both Simon and Carol's individual plights. Suddenly feeling human, he attempts to forge a friendship with his neighbor and a romance with Carol.

The impressive cast and the fact that it's a romantic comedy may draw many teens to this picture.
For strong language, thematic elements, nudity and a beating. (Re-rated on appeal down from an R)
  • JACK NICHOLSON plays a man who freely speaks his mind about how he feel toward others (usually disdain). After a while, however, he tries to straighten up his act.
  • HELEN HUNT plays a single mother who is very defensive about her son who has chronic asthma. She curses a few times in relation to Melvin's comments, and poses nude for Simon to sketch her (we only see partial nudity).
  • GREG KINNEAR plays a gay artist who must put up with Melvin's attitude toward him, being beaten up by several thieves, and not having seen his parents for many years.


    OUR TAKE: 9 out of 10
    Whenever a group of award winning talent is brought together for a new film, anticipation and worry follow hand in hand. Will egos that usually get inflated with stardom, run out of check? Will creative differences -- fueled by those big egos -- hamper the production? Finally, will the movie be any good, or just another star-filled disappointment? With director James L. Brooks latest film, "As Good As It Gets," the answer definitely falls into the "good" results.

    As a matter of fact, it's very good. Not only does it feature Brooks as writer and director (for which he's received three Oscars and thirteen Emmys over his career), but it also re-teams him with Jack Nicholson who earned one of his two Oscars (out of ten nominations) while starring in Brooks' 1983 hit, "Terms of Endearment." Throw in recent award winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. (for "Jerry Maguire"), Emmy award winner Helen Hunt (TV's "Mad About You"), and new film star Greg Kinnear ("Sabrina"), and you've got quite the gaggle of likeable, personable, charismatic, and definitely talented performers.

    Nicholson is an absolute delight as Melvin. Not only is this one of his better recent performances, but it's also definitely one of his funniest. What takes it a step beyond is the humaneness with which he slowly fills his character as the story progresses. Sure he's got an acerbic wit and says some meanspirited things -- all of which are also quite funny in the given context -- but we accept this because we know that he doesn't fully realize what he's doing or saying. The plot blames this on his obsessive-compulsive disorder, and we're subconsciously drawn to his character because he says things without thinking about the consequences or being politically correct. He does what many people would like to be able to, and that makes his character strangely attractive. That quality also brilliantly holds the audience and has us in his grasp so that we'll care about him once he begins to warm up.

    Of course a catalyst -- an ice breaker, if you will -- is needed for warming that icy, cold heart, and Brooks actually provides three such elements for the job. One is obviously Hunt's character who awakens his romantic feelings, and another is Kinnear's character who evokes Melvin's sympathy. It's the cute little canine Verdell, however, that exposes Melvin's iceberg and initiates the welcomed thaw. They don't give out Oscars for best performance by an animal, but perhaps they should. That's because this little mutt steals the show early on -- a point well recognized by Brooks who lovingly gives the little pooch a lot of screen time and some adorable closeups.

    Moving back to the human performers, I've always enjoyed Helen Hunt's cute, near smug-like quality that serves her quite well in this film. With her TV sitcom "Mad About You" nearing the inevitable end of its long and successful run, Hunt is maneuvering her way onto the big screen. While she's had many smaller roles, her appearance in 1996's smash hit, "Twister," brought her more wide recognition and bumped her up onto the short list of desired leading ladies. Although that action flick made a lot of money, Hunt is better suited for romantic comedies. As this film proves, she might just give the reigning queen of that genre, Julia Roberts, a run for the money for that throne.

    Greg Kinnear proves that his superb performance in 1995's "Sabrina" was no fluke. Although his portrayal of a gay man might ruffle some viewers' feathers, he creates such a compassionate, sympathetic character that everyone will like him by the story's end. Of course that's the point, and it's symbolically played out on the screen by having Melvin's obvious anti-gay sentiments eventually evaporate. Cuba Gooding, Jr. is fabulously entertaining in his small role. After his Oscar-winning performance in "Jerry Maguire," everyone wondered how he'd follow that, and this supporting character is just as much fun to watch as his last. You only wish he had some more screen time, but with so many strong characters, some material obviously had to be left out.

    Even so, the film still occasionally fills a bit long at two hours and eighteen minutes, and could have used a few judicial edits to shorten it up just a bit. Brooks' capable direction and the actors' performances, however, certainly keep the film from ever feeling monotonous. In addition, Brooks' screenplay (co-written by Mark Andrus) is as outstanding as usual, with the deeply differentiated characters given superb, well-written lines of dialogue to speak.

    That, of course, helps in generating the chemistry between Nicholson's and Hunt's characters. Despite their differences in age on screen -- and in real life -- sparks do fly when they're together. Obviously some of those are of the romantic variety, but equally fun are the ones caused by their differing personalities rubbing each other the wrong way. Like sandpaper eventually wearing down rough surfaces, however, their somewhat caustic relationship eventually smooths out their hardened outer personalities until they finally see the vulnerable person hiding inside each other.

    Of course the trip getting to that point is the challenge, particularly considering Nicholson's character. Suffering from his obsessive-compulsive disorder, he always eats with plastic utensils, washes once with a bar of soap and then throws it away, and religiously avoids stepping on any cracks -- regardless of their origin -- all of which lead to some hilarious scenes. Of course all of that is just to make their pending romance more difficult to attain, but as Melvin tells Carol at one moment, "You make me want to be a better man."

    Women will obviously love the fact that a man wants to change for a woman, and of course many men won't like that at all. That scene -- and the movie in general -- however, is about compromise, and all of the characters go through big doses of it to get what they really want and/or finally deserve. While that sounds a bit heavy, it's played more on the humorous side with a few bits of dark material thrown in to make it a bit more realistic. It's always fun to watch characters change and grow as a story progresses, and this film makes that "voyeurism" quite entertaining and satisfying.

    Certainly the best romantic comedy of the year, this film should delight moviegoers. With outstanding direction, writing, and what should be some award-winning (or at least nominated) performances, this is one of the best films of the year. If you're looking for a fun, heart-warming time at the movies, you won't miss with this film that's been appropriately and deservedly named. We give "As Good As It Gets" a 9 out of 10.

    For a PG-13 rated feature, this film nearly pushes that rating's boundaries and was originally rated R (that was lowered on an appeal). 3 "f" words are heard, and some partial nudity is seen (Hunt posing for Kinnear and another scene where we clearly see her breasts in a wet T-shirt after she's been in the rain without a bra). One of the characters is gay for those who may have a problem with that, although we don't see any activity. A brief, but violent scene has that character getting severely beaten up.

    Melvin obviously has a bad attitude toward others and freely speaks his mind regarding how he feels about them. Although few, if any, preteens will want to see this film, many teens just might. Considering some of the elements in this PG-13 rated film, you may want to look through the content to determine whether it would be appropriate for them and/or for you.

  • People drink at an art reception.
  • Carol drinks a beer.
  • Carol has a drink in a bar, as do others in the background.
  • We see Simon after he's been beat up and he has many "meaty" looking stitches in his face along with black and blue bruises.
  • Melvin drops Simon's dog down their building's indoor garbage chute (he lives) after he becomes annoyed with the dog.
  • Melvin refers to Frank as "the colored man" with skin "the color of molasses" and "with the broad nose."
  • Melvin refers to Simon (who's gay) as a "Pansy assed stool pusher," a "fudge packer," and later asks him, "What happened to your queer party friends?" He also tells Simon, "You'll be back on your knees in no time." Later he says, "You people are supposed to be sensitive and sharp."
  • Melvin tells two Jewish people seated at his table, "Your appetites aren't as big as your noses."
  • Carol's date in an early scene just wants to have sex with her, and when he finds out she has a sickly son, he hits the road.
  • While a male model distracts Simon, his friends begin stealing stuff from his apartment.
  • Melvin calls a waitress "elephant girl."
  • One of Melvin's fans asks how he writes women's characters so well. He responds, "I think of a man, and then take away reason and accountability."
  • Melvin is mean to Carol in that he's upset that he had to go buy nice clothes to get into a restaurant and then comments to her, "They let you in with a house dress." He then mentions to her that he brought her along on their trip so that maybe she could have sex with Simon (to "straighten" him out).
  • Some thugs beat up Simon after he finds that they're robbing his place.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Pissed," "Whiz," "Shut up," "Bitch" (toward a woman), "Piss ant," "Bastard," "Screwed up," "Moron," and "Pansy," "Fag," and "Queer" (for gay people).
  • Melvin drops Simon's dog down their building's indoor garbage chute (he lives).
  • Carol swipes a bunch of items from her hotel room (soap, shampoo, etc...).
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 3 "f" words, 6 "s" words, 1 slang term for male genitals (the "p" word), 3 hells, 2 S.O.B.'s, 2 craps, 2 asses, 2 damns, and 3 uses each of "Oh my God" and "Oh God," 2 uses of "For Christ's sakes," and 1 use each of "Holy God" and "Swear to God" as exclamations.
  • Carol brings a date home who immediately asks her, "Where's the bedroom?" He then climbs on top of her, licks her forehead, and later feels her clothed breast (she's quite surprised at his actions).
  • A young man, who Simon has paid to be a model for him, thinks he's there for sex and undresses as he follows Simon through his apartment. We see the top part of his bare butt, but Simon then sees him and tells him what he's there for.
  • Melvin tells Simon (about recovering, and getting in a jab about him being gay), "You'll be back on your knees in no time."
  • We see some of Carol's cleavage in an outfit she wears.
  • Carol shows up at Melvin's place after walking through the rain. Her wet T-shirt clearly shows she's not wearing a bra (we quite clearly see her nipples). Moments later, she sees this herself and covers up her chest.
  • Carol tells Melvin that she'll never have sex with him as "payment" for him taking care of Spencer's medical bills.
  • Melvin asks Simon if he's "...ever gotten an erection over a woman" saying that Simon's life would be a lot easier if he were straight.
  • Melvin mentions to Carol that he brought her along on their trip so that maybe she could have sex with Simon (to make him straight).
  • As Carol poses for Simon on the edge of the bathtub, we see the side of her bare breast and the top of her bare butt. Later we see her bare breasts in Simon's sketch, and then see her posing nude on the bed, but due to the way she's positioned, we don't see any full nudity.
  • Melvin asks Simon, "Did you have sex with her (Carol)?" (They didn't).
  • A painting on a wall shows a woman's bare breasts.
  • Some people on the street smoke.
  • Carol is constantly worried about Spencer who has chronic asthma.
  • Simon hasn't seen his parents in years since his father gave him money and told him never to return home. Simon also says that his father beat him unconscious for drawing sketches of his nude mother (not seen).
  • Obsessive-compulsive behavior.
  • Freely speaking your mind vs. being politically correct and/or polite.
  • Frank, upset at Melvin, forcibly pulls him from his apartment and warns him not to be mean to Simon.
  • Simon finds that a male model's friends are trying to rob his place. They then attack him, with one man repeatedly hitting Simon with a coat stand. When we later see Simon in the hospital, he's pretty banged up with horrible looking stitching and many black and blue bruises.
  • Simon, who's had enough of Melvin's smart aleck remarks, gets up and hits him.

  • Reviewed December 8, 1997

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