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Review by Sarah Gilliam (12/97)

Release: 1997, Sony
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr., Skeet Ulrich, Yeardley Smith
Director: James L. Brooks
MPAA Rating: [PG-13] language, nudity, violence
Genre: Comedy/Drama


Melvin Udall (Nicholson) is a cranky, eccentric writer. Carol Connelly (Hunt) is a waitress at a local restaurant. Simon Bishop (Kinnear) is Melvin's homosexual neighbor. Their lives interconnect when Simon is hospitalized after being attacked by punks who are trying to rob his home, and asks Melvin to watch after his dog. Upon being released from the hospital, he discovers he is in debt over $60,000. He travels to Baltimore to see his parents, and Melvin and Carol come along for the ride. The trip turns out to be an adventure in love and friendship.


The characters in this movie are very well written, with intricate background stories that make them seem more real than your standard Hollywood fare. Former E! Talk Soup host Greg Kinnear is a delight to watch, as usual, even though his performances are often overlooked (Sabrina and Dear God). He and Cuba Gooding Jr. (who plays Kinnear's close friend) are two of the brightest moments in the film. As Good As It Gets is one wonderful surprise after another: I first expected it to be a silly comedy, then a brash comedy (look at the elements that earned it its PG-13 rating), but I never expected it to be a touching drama, which it does very well at its peak. There's an unexpectedly enchanting romantic chemistry between the principal players.


As much as I love her on Mad About You, I have to agree with the assessment that Andrew [Manning] gave her in Twister: I just can't see Helen Hunt as anything but Jaime Buchman. Whether she lacks the dramatic range as an actress or I'm just too used to seeing her on the NBC sitcom, I'm not sure, but she always seems to play the same character in her films: Jaime, but maybe a little less obsessive/neurotic. It's this hang up that makes it difficult to watch her in a romantic capacity opposite anyone besides Mad About You co-star Paul Reiser--it feels like she's cheating!

Rating: 8 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)

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