PG Cooper: As Good as it Gets (1997) Review

Posted: April 18, 2013 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Time Capsule Reviews

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As Good as it Gets is a very well-regarded comedy from the late 90s. The film was nominated for several Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt both won Best Actor and Best Actress respectively. I was pretty excited going on, expecting a witty comedy with some genuine drama and great acting. This promise was not fulfilled.

The plot follows Melvin (Jack Nicholson), an elderly man with OCD who has poor social skills. He clashes with his openly gay neighbor (Greg Kinnear) and his boyfriend (Cuba Godding Jr.). But Melvin’s life is thrown into a tailspin when his usual waitress Carol (Helen Hunt) doesn’t show up one morning. This causes Melvin to become involved with Carol’s life in ways that will change both of them forever.

Where do I begin with this film? I suppose I’ll start with the leads. Melvin is not only unbelievably over the top but is also extremely unlikable. He’s a terrible person who never actually becomes a better person despite what the film tries to show. The best I can say for him is that he goes from being someone who only says cruel things into someone who says nice things but then follows them with cruel things. Nicholson also plays the role in a really silly and over the top way, and not even his natural charm can make Melvin the least bit likable.

Helen Hunt probably gives a better performance, she isn’t as hammy as Nicholson, but there’s nothing of note-worth. She handles all the “emotional” scenes well enough, but there’s nothing special about it. She is plagued with a very annoying character that seems to whine in almost every scene she’s in. Her relationship with Melvin is also very hard to swallow. I don’t see what it is about Carol that makes Melvin fall in love with her and more importantly I can’t accept that after all the terrible things Melvin says she would fall in love with him. Hell, I can barely accept the two being friends, but lovers? No dice. The film tries to accommodate for this by giving the two schmaltzy scenes of melodrama with no substance (including an extremely cliché ending) but they only serve to accentuate how unbelievable this couple is.

Of course all of this would be forgivable, or at least tolerable, if the film had been funny, but this isn’t the case. A lot of the jokes here just don’t wrong and the ones do are only mildly amusing at best. In truth, I’m not sure if the film is even going for laughs all that often. I’d be fine with this if the drama worked or if I at least cared about the characters, but I don’t. So what we’re left with is a comedy with little comedy and a drama with no drama. I’ll give the film some credit; Nicholson occasionally has a witty line that I really dig but that’s a small compensation, especially when the film is over two hours long.

I have no idea how this film scored  Best Picture and Director nominations over films like Jackie Brown and Boogie Nights. This is a boring and tedious film full of unlikable and unrealistic people, weak comedy, and non-existent drama. There’s enough small amusements that I won’t fail this film, but if this truly is as good as it gets when it comes to the films of James L. Brooks, I’ll be staying away from here on in.

D-

Comments
  1. Wow man. Your hater tendencies have gotten the best of you. That’s a great movie you’re talking about. Nicholson was fantastic in it. They gave him an OSCAR for it! I cant speak to Boogie Nights omissions, thats a crime. But you cant lay the blame here, this was a great movie. Very sweet and very funny.

    • pgcooper1939 says:

      Hey man, I didn’t go in wanting to dislike the film. Also, my anger at the film doesn’t come out of it’s Best Picture nomination, after all I like The Full Monty even though I don’t think it should have been nominated that year.

      And I love Nicholson, but he’s so over the top in this film.

  2. le0pard13 says:

    I’m with you on this re: the film, Daniel.

  3. ckckred says:

    I enjoyed this one, but I do think it didn’t deserve an Oscar Best Picture nomination over Boogie Nights and Jackie Brown. Nice review.

  4. Hunter says:

    I saw this a couple years ago, and from what I remember it was pretty good but I did not like the romance. I also thought it was very unbelievable. I don’t remember how funny Nicholson’s character was, but I remember he wasn’t funny enough to make up for being such a jerk and being so much older than her. I thought it would have worked a lot better if they were just friends.
    I loved Kinnear in this movie though. He was the best part of it for me.

  5. brikhaus says:

    Ouch, harsh review, but probably fair. I actually haven’t seen this one, but everything you said about it is what I thought it would be when I watched the trailer. Thanks for sparing me the misery of seeing this one.

  6. Caz says:

    This is one of my favourite films, still love watching it every now and then see different things on each viewing!

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