Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Scorp's favorites - 6 - As good as it gets

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

The fourth most common psychotic disorders in the world. When someone suffers with OCD (as it is called), they are doing certain things repetitively, in order to drain out the stress they have developed in their minds. By doing something repetitively, the stress, they believe, slowly disappears. They will not be able to do things the way a normal man or woman does.

Okay. Fullstop. This is not an essay on OCD, but before writing the review, thought the first paragraph will be useful to proceed further.

Now, Jack Nicholson. One of the extremely talented actors Hollywood has ever produced. When I think about Nicholson, the thought of Clint Eastwood comes naturally to my mind. What Eastwood does behind the camera, Nicholson does it in front of the camera. Movies like Chinatown, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining, Batman, The Departed are a few of his masterful flicks which showcase his uncanny acting prowess. To me, he is the kind of actor who can portray any emotion effortlessly, while acting.

When Jack Nicholson plays an OCD patient, there’s naturally a lot to enjoy. In this movie, Melvin Udall is a writer, who has published more than 60 books. He lives alone in his apartment, having regularized his life based on his OCD. He is systematic to certain traits like washing his hands many times, locking his door five times, walking on the road in a particular pattern, eating out in a particular restaurant wanting the service of a particular waitress etc.. He doesn’t want to be disturbed at all, and when disturbed, his magnanimous egoistic attitude is unleashed on the person who disturbed him, resulting in a flurry of utterly insulting abuses which makes the world to think that Melvin is a total loser.

Deep inside, Melvin is like a child. He cares for affection, but has his ego blocking his way when he wants to let out his affection. As a result, he neither receives affection nor is able to bring it out from his heart.

His lonely life is disturbed when he needs to take good care of his neighbor’s dog which he threw down the garbage line once. His neighbor is a painter, who gets severely attacked when he gets robbed. As a result, the painter’s manager, who once was abused by Melvin, forces him to take care of the dog which Melvin totally dislikes, but can’t do anything, since the manager threatens to attack Melvin if he says no. As a result, the dog gets to live in Melvin’s house for a few weeks, and slowly Melvin begins to love the dog.

Meanwhile, Carol, the waitress whom Melvin always prefers when he dines out in a particular restaurant, takes a days leave as her son Spence is suffering from acute asthma. This pisses Melvin off, as he doesn’t want to be served by anyone else. So, Melvin arranges for a checkup to Carol’s son, which Carol considers as the greatest help she has ever received from anyone. Although she doesn’t like Melvin coz of his attitude, she accepts the help, out of her love towards her son. Melvin slowly gets attracted towards Carol, but as usual, his ego steps in, totally blocking him to mention to Carol that he likes her. He continues to act arrogantly.

Melvin’s neighbor, the painter, comes home from the hospital and wants the dog back. Melvin doesn’t want to part ways with the dog, but pretends as if he doesn’t love the dog and gives it to the painter. The painter, because of his injuries and his broken hand, is not able to continue painting, and he becomes broke, as his apartment is up for sale to meet his medical expenses. He decides to borrow money from his parents, whom he has not spoken to, for many years. The painter’s manager comes to Melvin and entrusts the job of driving the painter to his hometown in his convertible, as he is busy with some work, and Melvin agrees, as Carol, the waitress, says she would love to go on a trip in a convertible. Melvin invites Carol and she reluctantly agrees for the t rip.

While in the trip, Carol and the painter develop a friendship and this annoys Melvin. Melvin thinks they both love each other, and the series of events in the hometown of the painter, add fuel to Melvin’s attitude and ego. He insults carol with his verbal attack and she decides not to talk to Melvin anymore. The painter, after seeing Carol while she is about to take bath, gets impressed by her beauty and starts to paint again, and they all return home without asking money from the painter’s parents.

Back home, the painter comes to live with Melvin for a few days as his apartment is up for sale, and he makes Melvin to understand and realize about his love towards Carol. Carol calls Melvin to express her apology for being so indifferent to Melvin, and the painter convinces Melvin to run to Carol’s home. Melvin, for the first time in his life, listens to a person, and decides to run to Carol’s home.
He reaches Carol’s home and invites her to the coffee shop at the corner of the road, the time being 4 AM! Carol comes with him, and while walking on the deserted toad, Melvin says he needs to compliment Carol. In spite of Carol’s resistance, he says the following dialogue:

‘I might be the only person on the face of the earth that knows you're the
greatest woman on earth. I might be the only one who appreciates how amazing you
are in every single thing that you do, and how you are with Spencer, "Spence,"
and in every single thought that you have, and how you say what you mean, and
how you almost always mean something that's all about being straight and good. I
think most people miss that about you, and I watch them, wondering how they can
watch you bring their food, and clear their tables and never get that they just
met the greatest woman alive. And the fact that I get it makes me feel good,
about me’

Carol gets dumbfounded, as she understands the love Melvin has towards her. They both walk in to the coffee shop, as we see Melvin walking casually, without following all the OCD patterns he usually does while walking. The movie slowly fades out.

Throughout the movie, Nicholson brings out his best. All the face twitches and expressions he displays during the various scenes where he has to react to people, who think him as a sucker, are just great. He has lived like an OCD patient. We clearly are able to understand what a loner he is, and how he yearns for love and affection. That is the success of his acting.

Helen Hunt as Carol, has acted very naturally. The scene where she cries to her mother that she too has emotions towards her own life, where she is unable to get even a date, due to the problems of her son, and how desperate she is when she looks out at people and their families, is one of the best scenes of the movie.

I heard from a friend of mine that last week, in one of the biggest hospitals in Coimbatore, this movie was screened for the patients, to ascertain that love can change lives. Affection and love towards fellow people can change even the toughest of fates, and that is what is expressed throughout the movie.

The movie garnered two Oscars for Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt in 1998.

One of the great films which talk about love and affection, watch ‘As good as it gets’ and feel the ability of one of the best actors of our times.

See the trailer here.


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