As Good As It Gets
Title: As Good As It Gets
Author: Best Actor - Jack Nicholson; Best Actress - Helen Hunt (1997)
Melvin Udall is an obsessive-compulsive novelist with Manhattan’s meanest mouth. But when his neighbor Simon is hospitalized, Melvin is forced to babysit Simon’s dog. And that unexpected act of kindness—along with waitress Carol Connelly—helps put Melvin back in the human race.
For all of its conventional plotting about an obsessive-compulsive curmudgeon (Jack Nicholson) who improves his personality at the urging of his gay neighbor (Greg Kinnear) and a waitress (Helen Hunt) who inspires his best behavior, this is one of the sharpest Hollywood comedies of the 1990s. Nicholson could play his role in his sleep (the Oscar he won should have gone to Robert Duvall for The Apostle), but his mischievous persona is precisely necessary to give heart to his seemingly heartless character, who is of all things a successful romance novelist. As a single mom with a chronically asthmatic young son, Hunt gives the film its conscience and integrity (along with plenty of wry humor), and she also won an Oscar for her wonderful performance. Greg Kinnear had to settle for an Oscar nomination (while cowriter-director James L. Brooks was inexplicably snubbed by Oscar that year), but his work was also singled out in the film’s near-unanimous chorus of critical praise. It’s questionable whether a romance between Hunt and the much older Nicholson is entirely believable, but this movie’s smart enough—and charmingly funny enough—to make it seem endearingly possible. —Jeff Shannon