Melvin (unbelievably amazing Jack Nicholson) is an author of bestsellers who lives alone in his huge, perfectly clean apartment. He avoids any contacts with people and the neighbours hate him, which is pretty understandable, because he would say anything to ruin their mood, day, or entire life. Carol (outstanding Helen Hunt), a waitress that works in a restaurant where Melvin eats every day, is the only person that is able of staying around him longer than 20 seconds. James L. Brooks, the director of the movie “As Good as It Gets”, tells the well-known story about an embittered man whose heart melts under the charm of a woman, but he manages to keep surprising the audience with brilliant dialogues and bitter-sweet humour that turns his romantic comedy into absolute masterpiece, which – obviously – wouldn’t be possible without great actors that prove here to be masters of their profession.
Nicholson has created a wonderful creation by playing Melvin, who is suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder and constantly insults, humiliates and hurts other human beings. He chooses his victims at random. Unlucky fellow who stand in his way, will hear what no one wants to hear. When his neighbour Simon (great Greg Kinnear) goes to the hospital, Melvin is forced to take care of his dog. This unexpected act of kindness and Carol Connelly will make Melvin look and behave like a human again. The process of the protagonist’s metamorphosis is presented in a very convincing at touching way. The director, obviously, creates a fairy tale, but the old man’s failures and disappointments are dramaturgically faultless – we believe in Melvin, in his story, and – last but not least – in his low.
The protagonist of the movie “As Good as It Gets” is a person who objectively can be considered a bad man. He is racist, homophobe, chauvinist, anti-Semite and seems to be generally deprived of empathy, which we get to know in very first scenes. However, as it happens in life – nothing is black and white. Nevertheless, Melvin is not an extreme rightist who supports the idea of white power and secretly reads Nazi books. He is rather an unfit for living is society eccentric who would say bad things to anyone that he meets. The words that he uses in different context could be taken for a speech of hate, but the director suggests that Melvin does not really mean it.
Hate is mask that the protagonist is wearing to feel safe and to tame the fears. The movie is concentrated around the process of cracking the shell of coarse old man and revealing his romantic, but twisted up soul. Scenes in which the protagonist reveals his sensitivity are truly magical, because Nicholson makes visible his character’s pain, shame and embarrassment. The script is written with a lot of empathy and a lot of understanding for those who don’t belong to the regular world and its people. That’s what makes this entire movie so intelligent, funny, and beautiful at the same time. What’s important, Melvin is not the only weirdo in this story. All of characters that we meet are a bit strange and different to what we call “normal”. “As Good as It Gets” is not a story about total freaks, but I think that the director wanted it to be an affirmation of otherness and that’s what this movie seems to be.
“You make me want to be a better man” – says Melvin to Carol, in one of the best romantic scenes in the history of cinema, which makes me want to watch the whole movie as many times as possible. It would seem that the story is based on a banal plot – the eccentric under the influence of a woman goes through an extraordinary change. Everyone can immediately guess the ending. However, this film is not about originality, it’s about brilliance. “As Good as It Gets” is as good as a movie can get.