298. Scent of a Woman

Movie: Scent of a Woman

Release Date: December 23, 1992

Director: Martin Brest

Starring: Al Pacino, Chris O’Donnell.

Tag Lines: “Col. Frank Slade has a very special plan for the weekend. It involves travel, women, good food, fine wine, the tango, chauffeured limousines and a loaded forty-five. And he’s bringing Charlie along for the ride.”

Relevance: I saw ‘Scent of a Woman’ with a group of friends in theaters during the holiday break of my senior year in college. My guess is that it was some time early in January of 1993. I generally liked the movie, but didn’t love it as much as others that went to see it with me. And the reason I didn’t love it…Al Pacino.

Mr. Pacino was getting huge critical praise for his portrayal of Lt. Col. Frank Slade as well as some awards buzz, including the Oscar. I thought he was ok, I’m just not a fan of loud, yelling, cantankerous people. And that is what his character is, a blind Archie Bunker. Yes, I can’t stand the Archie Bunker character either and have watched very little of “All in the Family” because of it. But I digress. I sometimes at first watch have a hard time appreciating an actor’s performance because they are playing an unlikable character. And Frank Slade is extrememly unlikable.

What I really did enjoy about ‘Scent of a Woman’ that first time was Chris O’Donnell. His character and story arc is what I enjoyed most about the film. I was familiar a little bit with his acting from earlier movies, but this was his first major role. And he handled said role impeccably. From that moment on I became a fan of his and have enjoyed his performances on both the big and little screen.

After Mr. Pacino won his Oscar for ‘Scent of a Woman,’ I watched the movie again when it was released for rental. Someone who hadn’t seen it wanted to watch it, so I begrudgingly rented the movie. Before pressing play on the VCR, I silently told myself to watch the performance, not the character. That’s what I did. And I did enjoy the film and the performance a little bit more. Don’t get me wrong, I still hated the character. I rolled my eyes every time he yelled “Whoo-ah!” But I realized that if I were that annoyed by him, the actor must be doing a tremendous job in portraying the loud, unlikable guy.

Similar to my reactions with ‘Rain Man’ (see 349. Rain Man), ‘Scent of a Woman’ taught me to look past my personal annoyances with characters and look for the artistry in the performance. As the years moved on in which I have re-watched the movie, my grievances towards it are almost non-existent.

Today’s Thoughts: I haven’t watched ‘Scent of a Woman’ in probably over a decade. I do own the DVD as it was nominated for Best Picture. As previously mentioned in other posts, I used to buy all of the movies nominated in that category. Now I just buy the winner. Nevertheless I own it and watched it today.

I have to say this was the most I have ever enjoyed the movie. For some reason, I honed in more on the quiet, subtle moments of Al Pacino’s performance and noticed he really was remarkable. There is still the yelling and the “whoo-ah’s” to endure, but the scenes with his blank stares, or his listening to other characters, not to mention that beautiful tango scene, were really quite exquisite. Maybe as I creep closer and closer to old, white, mean, grumpy, cantankerous man I’m more sympathetic. Could be. But let’s leave that discussion for another time.

Chris O’Donnell was equally impressive and so very young. His one-on-one scenes with Mr. Pacino, especially the climactic “gun” scene, are handled really well. At such a young age and very early into his career, he held his own with the seasoned master actor. Kudos to him.

Oh, hello there Philip Seymour Hoffman, or Philip S. Hoffman as he is credited in the film. I forgot you were in this. Again, like Mr. O’Donnell, so young but also very tragic watching him knowing that he died at the age of forty-six. A true talent. Imagine the fantastic performances we have missed out due to his early departure.

“Whoo-ah!” That was my husband’s response when I told him what today’s movie was going to be. I just rolled my eyes and made sure to watch it alone. Because I knew every time Al Pacino said “that” in the movie there would have been an echo of it in my living room. And that might have sent me over the edge.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Al Pacino (winner), Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Director, Martin Brest (nomination), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Bo Goldman (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Al Pacino (winner), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, Bo Goldman (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Suppirting Role, Chris O’Donnell (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay, Bo Goldman (nomination), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor, Al Pacino (nomination), PGA Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, Martin Brest (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Bo Goldman (nomination).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Hulu, DVD Availability.

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