best films: #27: AS GOOD AS IT GETS (1997)
It was inevitable – as much as I gush over this movie and its star, Jack Nicholson, it was only a matter of time before it popped up on the big countdown. When it comes to As Good As It Gets, it will always have my undying love and affection. Not only is it probably Nicholson’s best performance (though I’m inclined to tie it with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), but it’s also a ridiculously funny movie that everyone should give a chance at some point or another. Even if your faith in James L. Brooks movies is shaken after Spanglish, check this one out and you will not be disappointed. Nicholson plays Melvin Udall, an eccentric, OCD-ridden shut-in who takes glee in poking fun at anyone and everything that crosses his path – particularly his gay artist neighbor’s dog Verdell. But he tries to subside his antics when he finally gets some positive attention from a waitress, Carol (played by Helen Hunt), down at his favorite diner. It’s a charming movie, despite its obvious bigotry and fun-making, and Melvin is an amazingly written and realized character. And though I’m not certain Hunt truly deserved the Best Actress win that year (she’s sort of weakest in show for me), I’m still confident in saying it should’ve been Titanic‘s biggest competition in 1997. If nothing else, it should be commended for his awesomely zingy line-writing for Nicholson’s character – his takedown of his neighbor Simon’s (played by Greg Kinnear) housekeeper is both horrifying and hysterical. Melvin is a grumpy old hateful codger with a zest for hating humanity and hurting people’s feelings. And that’s why I adore him.
Standout Performance: This movie might as well have been called The Jack Nicholson Showcase, because that’s what it becomes. Great stuff for the star.