Scent of a Woman (1992)

(On Cable TV, August 2016) The reason to watch Scent of a Woman isn’t as much the well-worn mentor/prodigy plot (which is structurally similar to Finding Forrester, which I coincidentally saw just a week ago) than with its memorable lead character as portrayed by one of Al Pacino’s career-best performance. Colonel Frank Slade is a piece of work: old, blind but intensely charismatic despite his abrasive personality, he has a secret plan and drags a young man through a wild weekend in New York, at the end of which he intends to kill himself. Meanwhile, the student protagonist wrestles with matters of integrity and future prospects. Their interaction makes up most of Scent of a Woman, considerably enlivened by Pacino’s “Hoo-ah!” and his propensity for straight talk. (I suspect that most men who aspire to elderly crankiness can try to emulate his character, but don’t have what it takes to achieve it.) The movie is successful at what it wants to be, although (like many of director Martin Brest’s films) it’s far too long for its own good: At more than two hours and a quarter, Scent of a Woman doesn’t have the plot complexity required to sustain its duration. (Unfortunately, it’s tough to decide what should be cut, and if some of the film’s greatest character moments would be gone along the way.) Chris O’Donnell is OK as the young audience stand-in whose mission is to be amazed by Slade’s behaviour, while Philip Seymour Hoffman shows up in his big-screen debut. The ending is a bit cheap and conventional, but it’s the journey alongside an impressive character that makes Scent of a Woman worth seeing.

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