As Good as it Gets (1997)

(On TV, March 2015) While As Good As It Gets was a good box-office hit and a monster award contender in 1997, I had somehow managed to avoid it until now.  Featuring iconic performances and oft-quoted material, I thought I knew what the film was about.  I was wrong, of course, but the idealized version of the film that I carried in my head remains more satisfying than the one on-screen.  Both don’t start to diverge until fairly late in the film: As a confirmed obsessive-compulsive misanthrope who has somehow become a much-loved best-selling author, Jack Nicholson has one of his signature character here, and the cockiness with which he delivers either put-downs or compliments is nothing short of legendary.  (And those quotes… they’re ever-green.) Opposite him, Helen Hunt has rarely been more appealing as a single-mom waitress whose boundless compassion is tested by a thoroughly detestable human being.  (Meanwhile, Greg Kinnear is just fine as a gay artist overcoming the trauma of an attack, although this is really not his movie.)  As Good as It Gets is enjoyable as it forces these characters to be together for a while, their eccentricities and neuroses bouncing off each other through great dialogue and telling details.  But the film seems to lose itself somewhere in its third quarter of the film: For all of the interest in the platonic friendship between our two leads, I feel that the film takes a step too far by matching them together romantically.  The age difference between the two is bad enough (twenty six years!), but the film itself seems to acknowledge how bad a fit they are, and the small moment of détente at the very end isn’t particularly convincing: I would have been far happier a viewer at seeing both of them heal each other, and evolve in their own respective directions.  But, eh, what do I know?  As Good as it Gets made money, got great reviews and remains a bit of a reference almost twenty years later.  Given that, I’ll take my opinion and keep it for myself.

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