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Festivale online magazine, February, 1998
As Good as it Gets movie review
As Good as it Gets

If you were casting a Nineties road film, who would you include? Recent road films have been less like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby comedies, and more like a Russian novel, filled with angst and coincidence and despair.

The story of a journey is as old as human life, from the nomadic hunter-gatherers through the history of colonisation to the present day, the physical movement from one place to another has been the metaphor for life, moving from life to death, from childhood to adulthood, from irresponsibility to responsibility, from past to future.

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As Good as it Gets has a long setup to the road trip of its three main characters, however the whole film is about their journey, separately as individuals, and together as they move towards their ultimate friendships.

This is a film about finding love in all its forms, about trust and betrayal, and about the capacity humans have to surprise themselves and others. You may read hyperbolic news pieces about train wrecks and the human spirit, but the courage to survive a physical disaster is far less than that which is required to face day to day life.

Jack Nicholson plays a writer (Melvin) living in an apartment that no-one has ever entered. He is obsessive-compulsive, outrageous and self-centred, and he has refused to take medication. This is the kind of role that Nicholson revels in, larger than life, with unlimited opportunity for mayhem. Helen Hunt is Carol the waitress at Melvin's table at the restaurant that he eats at every day. She has, he says, old eyes, and her refusal to enter into his compulsions is a large part of his recovery. She forces him to notice her as a person, and out of self-interest, and some compassion, he forces others to help her, as he helps her himself.

The third party is Simon the fag (Kinnear), his artist next door neighbour who is beaten and robbed, losing his trust, his home and his artistic vision. It is on his behalf that the road trip takes place.

This is a film about people, and about their stories, about how we can transcend our histories if we make an effort, and how we can help others by demanding more of them, and ourselves. It is also an excellent opportunity to watch actors playing real people, ordinary people, not perfect, not stereotypic, but a mixed bag of good and bad, of strength and weaknesses. Cuba Goodings Jr as an art dealer and catalyst adds interest to the film which has all the hallmarks of a ensemble piece. The writing, the direction, and the action all come together to create a slice of life that may not stir your adrenal glands, but will affirm your life.

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Just the facts:

Title: As Good as it Gets (1997)
Written by: Mark Andrus, Mark Andrus, James L. Brooks
Directed by: James L. Brooks
Produced by: James L. Brooks, Bridget Johnson, Laurence Mark, Richard Sakai, John D. Schofield, Owen Wilson
Edited by: Richard Marks
Director of Photography: John Bailey

The Players: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr., Skeet Ulrich, Shirley Knight
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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed: 17-Feb-1998 : Last updated: : Last tested: 3-Jul-2014: Last Compiled: 3-Jul-2014
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