Movie: As Good As It Gets
Release Date: December 23, 1997
Director: James L. Brooks
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr., Skeet Ulrich, Shirley Knight.
Tag Lines: “Brace yourself for Melvin.”
“A comedy from the heart that goes for the throat.”
Relevance: “What if this is as good as it gets?” I have asked myself that very question numerous times throughout my life, but especially in 1998. That was a tough year for me personally. I had just come out as gay and was not handling life very well. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, some fly out of the proverbial gay closet, I was dragged. When I finally watched ‘As Good As It Gets’ in the summer of that year via VHS rental, it was exactly the movie I needed to see.
I was living alone in a small apartment in what seemed an even smaller town. Work was my life and I spent fifty to sixty hours a week slaving just to pay the bills. My only social life was renting movies from Hollywood Video. And I did that a lot. ‘As Good As It Gets’ was nominated for seven Academy Awards that year including Best Picture and won two for its actors, so it was high on my “must see” list. And I am glad that it was.
I absolutely loved the film and especially loved the character of Simon Bishop, beautifully played by Greg Kinnear. The character was openly gay and after getting horribly beaten up sinks into a depression and loses his will to create his art. It was all to real for me. I wasn’t physically beaten up, but I was emotionally. I was teetering on depression. I seemed to have lost my drive and purpose in life. And above everything else, I was lonely. I am not saying that this movie saved me or my life, that honor goes to Madonna’s “Ray of Light” album, but that’s for another time and another blog. It did however make me realize that even if I felt alone, I wasn’t. There were others out there just like me. The movie and that character helped me find some of my spark again.
I eventually bought the movie on VHS and now own it on DVD and watch it every now and again. And after every viewing I always ask myself that question, “What if this is as good as it gets?” My answer every time is “I’m okay with that.”
Today’s Thoughts: Watching ‘As Good As It Gets’ today amid the Covid-19 pandemic made me realize that we are pretty much all Melvin Udall. We are cleaning everything, wearing gloves, and avoiding contact with people as much as humanly possible. But hopefully doing so without the sexist, racist and homophobic comments.
This is Jack Nicholson’s third appearance out of four on my list of most influential movies. (Check out 300. Mars Attacks! and 311. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for the first two movies.) Okay, technically five films as he was in yesterday’s movie as well, but it’s such a minor role I’m not counting it. Sue me. As previously mentioned in those posts, I am not the biggest Nicholson fan. He is a fine actor, he just doesn’t do it for me. With that said, in my humble opinion, he has never been better than he was in ‘As Good As It Gets.’ To make such a miserable human being likable and have the audience root for him is really commendable. Sure the screenplay has something to do with that, but Mr. Nicholson has beautiful, subtle moments in the film that enhance what was most likely written on the page.
The movie was just as enjoyable today as it was when I first watched it. The actors are tremendous and the story is still very relevant. I will say some of Mr. Udall’s comments and actions are even more cringe-worthy in 2020 than they were in 1997, but Mr. Nicholson still had me rooting for him in the end. Today’s special shout outs definitely go to Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Yeardley Smith. They have many lovely scenes, but their reactions to their friend Simon’s bashed in face is absolutely priceless. They make me laugh every single time. Oh and Verdell, the dog, come on! It doesn’t get any cuter than that.
This concludes our James L. Brooks double feature as yesterday’s movie was another one of his classic films. (see 270. Broadcast News) He truly is a remarkable film maker. But don’t be too sad, I’m not finished with him yet. I will be watching one more of his films at a much later date this year.
Awards: Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Jack Nicholson (winner), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Helen Hunt (winner), Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Greg Kinnear (nomination), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Mark Andus, James L. Brooks (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Richard Marks (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Music or Comedy Score, Hans Zimmer (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (winner), Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Jack Nicholson (winner), Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Helen Hunt (winner), Golden Globe for Best Director, James L. Brooks (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Greg Kinnear (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, Mark Andrus, James L. Brooks (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, Jack Nicholson (winner), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role, Helen Hunt (winner), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, Greg Kinnear (nomination), Broadcast Film Critics Award for Best Actor, Jack Nicholson (winner), Broadcast Film Critics Award for Best Picture (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, James L. Brooks (nomination), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, Jack Nicholson (nomination), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, Helen Hunt (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Actor, Jack Nicholson (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor, Greg Kinnear (winner), PGA Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, James L. Brooks, Bridget Johnson, Kristi Zea (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Mark Andus, James L. Brooks (nomination.
Ways to Watch: Vudu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Netflix, DVD Availability.