As Good as It Gets

Melvin Udall: Jack Nicholson
Carol Connelly: Helen Hunt
Simon Bishop: Greg Kinnear
Frank Sachs: Cuba Gooding Jr.

Directed by James L. Brooks. Written by Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks. Running time: 138 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for strong language, thematic elements, nudity and a beating).

Central Theme
Most people live lives of quiet desperation, fearing this could be as good as it gets, but even the most entrapped person can change and experience a richer life.

Melvin Udall is a successful romance writer who is anything but romantic. He is an obsessive-compulsive, neurotic, racist, homophobic and generally hateful person, until he finds himself bound up in relationships with two people and a dog he can’t avoid.

Carol is the waitress where Melvin eats lunch every day and is one of the only people who attempts conversation with Melvin. Her son is a severe asthmatic and her financial situation prohibits her from getting the best medical care. She is gutsy and tough, but also disarmingly vulnerable and kind, even to Melvin. When she decides not to go onto work to care for her son, Melvin selfishly foots the bill for medical treatment just so she’ll come back and serve him. But this act of kindness changes their relationship.

Simon Bishop is an artsy, gay and lives in the apartment across the hall from Melvin. Melvin’s cruel attitude towards gays is matched by his mistreatment of Simon’s dog, but when Simon is brutally beaten and robbed, Melvin is called upon to take care of the dog. Melvin and the dog become best friends and when Simon returns home to recuperate, Melvin is forced into a relationship with Simon so he can keep his contact with the dog.

The story moves towards a humanizing conclusion when Melvin, Simon and Carol take a two-day road trip and we see Melvin earnestly trying to become a better man. The people you can’t live with can become the people you can’t live without.

Note all the crosses in Carol’s apartment. They are in almost every room and possibly a sublte explanation for her tenacious commitment to doing the right thing and being the right kind of person.

Beliefs num
–Anyone can change.
–Beneath it all most of us want to become better people.
–We are trapped in our own patterns, mostly selfish.
–Only by putting others ahead of ourselves will we find release from selfishness.
–Such an act is counterintuitive, but in losing our life we find it.
–The people you can’t live with can become the people you can’t live without.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–Have you ever become friends with someone who you initially couldn’t stomach?
–Is there some redeemable good in every person?
–Can anybody change?
–What does it take for a person to truly change?

Provocative Quotes byline
–This is New York. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
==Melvin as he drops the dog down the laundry chute.
–I work all the time, so don’t ever interrupt me.
–I’ve got Jews at my table.
==Melvin complains at lunch.
–We’re all gonna die. I will. You will. Sure sounds like your son will.
==Melvin’s heartless remarks to Carol about her son.
–Why are you doing this to me?
==Simon to his assailant’s
–What if this is as good as it gets?
==Melvin in lobby to other patients waiting for the shrink.
–How can you diagnose me as an obsessive-compulsive and then act like I have some choice about =barging in?
==Melvin to shrink.
–He’s a freak show. He’s the worse person I ever met.
==Carol explaining Melvin to her son.
–Do you have any control over how creepy you get?
==Carol to Melvin.
–I think of a man. Take away all reason and accountability.
==Melvin on how he writes from a woman’s perspective.
–Sell crazy somewhere else. We’re all stocked up here!
==Melvin to Panamanian housekeeper.
–It’s high times for you. The gay neighbor is terrified.
==Simon to Melvin when he gets home from the hospital, broke and futureless.
–I’m not going to sleep with you. I will never sleep with you. Ever. Ever.
==Carol to Melvin after he shows kindness to her son.
–Shouldn’t that be a good thing, telling somebody no thanks allowed?
==Melvin to Carol.
–Think white and get serious.
==Melvin to Simon’s black agent.
–What you did changed my life. You are going to be in our prayers, our daily prayers forever.
==Carol to Melvin after he gets her son help.
–It’s not true. Some of us have great stories, pretty stories, that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad–just no one in this car.
==Melvin after Carol says everyone is trying to get over his or her terrible story.
–Look at this place, they make me wear a coat and tie and you wear a housedress.
==Simon’s thoughtless comment about Carol’s nicest dress.
–You make me wan to be a batter man.
==Melvin to Carol.
–That’s maybe the best compliment of my life.
–What he gave me was better than sex. He held me.
==Carol after a night with Simon.
–I don’t care what you did for me. I don’t think I want to know you. All you do is make me feel bad about myself.
==Carol to Melvin at end of road trip.
–I don’t know whether I’m being sensible or hard on you. What I said in the street was a bad thing to do. You’re not ready and you’re too old to not be ready. But there were extraordinary kindnesses that did take place.
==An apologetic Carol to Melvin.
–OK if I say something? I should have danced with you.
==Melvin to Carol.
–Do you know where you are lucky? You know who you want. Go over there. The best thing you have going for you is your willingness to be humiliated.
==Simon to Melvin.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in December 23, 1997 by | No Comments »

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