Thursday, May 13, 2010

As Good As It Gets (1997)

Less than a week back, I saw Dil Se, I had avoided for years for no good reason and loved it. I had new found faith and this week, I decided to give another such movie a shot: As Good As It Gets. Now most of you who have seen the movie will probably be aghast that I should not have seen this movie and still be writing a movie blog. But yes, despite having had it for almost 2 years now, I avoided the movie like the plague: either it was too long or Jack Nicholson was an overrated actor. But now, I did give it a shot and here’s what I thought:

There are movies which are glitzy, glamorous and big-budgeted and yet, leave you stone cold. And then, there are movies which are smaller in their ambitions, straight out of life, simple and yet, somehow, inexplicably, they blow you away. As Good As It Gets is in the latter category. Here, imperfect scenes are possible thanks to imperfect characters. A lot of unexpected things can happen with them within the span of one scene. Your hero can be manic and suffering from OCD and still be a leading man without being painfully neurotic like Woody Allen. Your leading lady can be difficult, complicated and yet caring and the greatest woman alive. The kiss they share can be an imperfect one and mothers can intervene at unexpected moments. Your supporting characters are stand on their own make you fall in love with them on their own terms rather than in relation to the leading characters. These are movies that celebrate the unpredictability and imperfections of life. And this is what makes them perfect.

The movie is about unlikely relationships that a writer suffering from OCD (Jack Nicholson), a single mother and waitress (Helen Hunt) and a gay artist (Greg Kinnear) share. What starts out as distaste and disgust soon turns to friendships and more. Sure, that sounds like a predictable premise. What elevates it beyond the generic is some fantastic writing and direction by James L. Brooks and extremely poignant and flawless performances by each of the cast members. The script is nearly perfect with great characterisation, sharp dialogues and just the right number of scenes. No track appears forced or out of place. Jack Nicholson does what he usually does best: being foul, difficult and mean-spirited except here he has a heart of gold. Helen Hunt looks beautiful and sexy in a very earthly manner and lives her character in every single scene. Even Cuba Gooding Jr. shines in a smaller role and makes you wonder what the hell was he on when he chose his subsequent movies. However, for me, the real star of this movie (and one who probably got cheated of an Oscar statuette) was Greg Kinnear. He plays the character of Simon to perfection finding the right balance between expressive and subtle. It is so rare to see gay characters being done realistically without unnecessary stereotyping. He takes to all the aspects of his character: a man sensitive almost to a fault, an artist and a homosexual so beautifully that it is nearly impossible to imagine anyone else playing this character so well.  

Sure, the movie is fairly glitzy and glamorous within its genre considering its casting and production. However, as a story, it is beautiful in its simple look at complicated characters. The movie strongly reminded me of The Station Agent, a more unconventional, quirky and complex take on a similar friendship between a dwarf, a married woman and the owner of a refreshment stand. While As Good As It Gets is considerably more conventional and safe in its conclusion, it benefits from some great characters and even better actors who bring them to life on screen so well so as to elevate it to greatness. At one point Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) asks, “What if this is as good as it gets?” To that, I would say, “If this is, then it’s fine by me.”

Both Dil Se and As Good As It Gets have convinced me to watch more of the movies I have been avoiding and share in this space what I thought about some of them. It would be fun to shake things up a little bit. Watch this space for more!

1 comment:

  1. Aptly put. I fell in love with Helen Hunt after seeing the movie.

    The experience was more like reading a novel than watching a movie. Nobody is in any hurry and the film maker takes his time portraying and developing all the characters without any unnecessary exaggerations. And the beautiful dialogues ...