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AS GOOD AS IT GETS

SYNOPSIS:
Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) is an obsessive-compulsive loser with a biggish heart beneath his annoying facade. Melvin has a gay neighbour, Simon (Greg Kinnear), who is robbed and severely beaten up by a gang of punks and hospitalised. Melvin is asked to look after his little dog Verdell, which he reluctantly does. Udall visits a cafe every day to be served by Carol (Helen Hunt), the only waitress who will put up with his insulting antics. Helen’s child Spence has asthma, and she is constantly worrying about him, and never has any time to go out, much to the chagrin of her mother (Shirley Knight). Melvin, who makes his money writing sickly romance novels, gets the child the best care money can buy, and insists on paying the bill. About the same time, Simon comes out of the hospital to find that he owes $61,000 in medical bills. He must go to Baltimore to seek out his parents, who have disowned him – just in case. However his manager Frank (Cuba Gooding Jr) is unable to drive him, so it is up to Melvin, who asks – no, begs - Carol to come along. The three head down to Baltimore and discover love, insecurity, jealousy, and friendship.

"As Good As It Gets is a delicious gem with a lead character whose compulsive and obsessive absurdities are engaging, played with relish by the irrepressible Jack Nicholson. Nicholson is hugely entertaining as the paradoxical romance fiction writer, whose life is so far removed from romance, that the phrase ‘write about what you know’ applies only in converse. His characterisation manages to be at once over-the-top, amusing, despicable, poignant, sad and vulnerable. James L. Brooks not only gets the very best from Nicholson, but also evokes top performances from Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear. Hunt is Nicholson’s perfect counterpart - a pragmatic, no-nonsense gal with special attributes, which include tolerance and yards of patience. Hunt delivers a simply stunning performance, full of nuance and sensibility, yet with a good natured matter-of-factness that earths her like an electric current. Greg Kinnear - so cardboard-like in Sabrina - has wonderful screen presence here, showing his range and screen appeal. Adding to the appeal of the players is Jill as Verdell, the adorable pouch-with-attitude and scene-stealing ability, a rare European breed of Brussels Griffon – actually played by six extremely well-trained canine personalities. The scene where Jack Nicholson indicates and coaxes the dog to go to screen owner, Greg Kinnear and not him, is one that animal-dotty owners will relate to with humour and relish. Here is a film that throws three un-like characters together, gives them a stir, and then we find that they perhaps have more in common than at first seems. A trifle long, As Good As It Gets jumps out as being original in its characters, marvellous in its performances and a hugely entertaining mix of the muddle of complex personalities."
Louise Keller

"James L. Brooks is one of the film makers in Hollywood who can write, and with As Good As It Gets, the creator of such classic sitcoms as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, has written up a storm. Here is a movie of the old fashioned variety, one with a detailed sense of character, narrative structure and brilliant writing to go along with the mix. Brooks has also coupled that with a faultless cast that brings wonderful menagerie of vivid characters to life. As with Terms of Endearment, Brooks knows how to bring the best out of Nicholson, giving him a richly detailed character who embarks on a genuine journey of self-discovery. Whether bitingly mouthing his barbed insults, or displaying visible pain of loneliness, Nicholson’s bravura performance is a miracle of contemporary screen acting, minus the usual schtick one associates with the actor. Before Mad About You, Helen Hunt was an illuminating actress (just check out her work on the lesser seen Waterdance for evidence). Here, Hunt is magical, funny, touching, beautiful yet very real in her look and performance. While Greg Kinnear, who made his screen debut in the regrettable Sabrina, gives an exquisitely heartfelt performance as the artist. Cuba Gooding Jnr is also wonderfully effective as Simon’s art dealer. Seamlessly directed by Brooks, and beautifully shot, As Good As It Gets, sparkles with wit and humanity, without resorting to typical cliches. Matched by a winning musical score, this is a movie that sets out to prove that with great writing, a Hollywood film can rise to the occasion, and then some. This is truly a work that’s as good as it gets."
Paul Fischer

"Yes, well all that is true, (Louise and Paul, above) but so is the criticism (below) that it is implausible and ultimately featherweight in dramatic terms. So what? Brooks is telling a romantic comedy but one in which the (unlikely, over-age, overbearing and selfish) boy does meet the (driven, divorced and desperate) girl, in an unholy scenario that engages a small dog owned by a gay artist neighbour as the catalyst for redeeming said sad boy. It is from this quirkiness of the situation that the comedy and entertainment value derives, and frankly, it’s damn good entertainment. There is no doubt, of course, that it requires the talents of this top notch cast to pull it off with panache and flair, which they do."
Andrew L. Urban


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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

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Press Conference
with JACK NICHOLSON,
JAMES L. BROOKS & GREG KINNEAR
at Sydney's
Hotel Intercontinental,
on Monday Jan 12, 1998
FEATURE

Lynden Barber's SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

AS GOOD AS IT GETS (M)
(US)

CAST: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr, Skeet Ulrich, Shirley Knight, Yeardley Smith, Lupe Ontiveros

DIRECTOR: James L. Brooks

PRODUCER: James L. Brooks, Bridget Johnson, Kristi Zea

SCRIPT: James L. Brooks

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Bailey

EDITOR: Richard Marks

MUSIC: Hans Zimmer

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bill Brzeski

RUNNING TIME: 138 minutes

AWARDS: Nominated for six Golden Globe Awards, including Best Film, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Director (1998)

 

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 5, 1998

Video Distrib: Col TriStar
Release: Mar 99
RRP: $24.95







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