Tag Archives: Helen Hunt

Pay it Forward (2000)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Pay it Forward</strong> (2000)

(On TV, June 2015) A weepy emotionally-manipulative ludicrous drama is already bad, but a weepy emotionally-manipulative ludicrous drama with a terrible ending is much, much worse.  I actually could have lived with Pay it Forward’s central conceit –a young teenager creating a self-reinforcing wave of generosity that sweeps the nation.  (In this age of social media, you can completely imagine #payitforward as a viral week-long sensation.)  It’s all meant to be Highly Dramatic, although some of the sting is taken off through a non-chronological structure that works as a mystery.  Adapted from a novel, Pay it Forward is obviously meant to appeal to the same kind of people who put up inspirational quotes all over their social media feed.  And that’s fine –everyone deserves stories meant for them.  For the rest of us cynics, though, Pay it Forward can be so manipulative as to be repellent.  And that’s before we get to the terrible ending, which throws its protagonist under the bus in order to make everything even more Dramatic and Meaningful.  Ah well; whatever.  At least Haley Joel Osment, Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt (in a thoroughly un-glamorized role) all get something to play, and moralizing do-gooders everywhere get a film they can enjoy.  If only it wasn’t for that ending, that truly awful ending…

As Good as it Gets (1997)

<strong class="MovieTitle">As Good as it Gets</strong> (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.