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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

As Good As It Gets (1997)



Reviews and Comments

"What if this is as good as it gets?"

Jack Nicholson plays a social misfit in every conceivable sense. He's racist and sexist, with a obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hates everyone and lofts eloquent insults at every opportunity. In a politically correct age such as this, it's fascinating that Nicholson is able to portray the character so well and get away with it. His performance was certainly Oscar calibre.

Helen Hunt plays a waitress with an asthmatic son, who can't seem to get decent medical care. She works in the only restaurant Nicholson will eat in, and she's the only waitress who will consent to serve him. Greg Kinnear plays an artist neighbor to Nicholson and owns a dog that Nicholson can't stomach.

As Good As It Gets is a movie about the three of these characters. More succinctly, it's about Nicholson's character learning to accept the world around him and contribute to it in a positive way. It sounds gushy, maybe preachy, but it is none of these things. The film is a hilarious comedy doubling as a heartfelt human drama. In particular is the noticeable lack of contrivance. When Hunt's son becomes too sick for her to report to work, Nicholson lends a hand -- not because he's suddenly had a change of heart, but because he wants to eat, and she's the only waitress who will serve him. It's strange, but it fits Nicholson's character. However unlikely the story gets, it's plausible and believable because it's purely character-driven. It's the film's primary asset that it does this and still manages to tell a story whose subtleties are so thought-provoking.