Spotlight
AS GOOD AS IT GETS
5 Stars
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr, Skeet Ulrich, Shirley Knight
Director: James L Brooks
Certificate: 15
Running Time: 2hrs 18mins
Opening Date: March 13

Germs of Endearment.

Three completely different New Yorkers find their complex lives intertwined in the best comedy romance in ages. This entertaining chronicle of how one man's outrageously non-PC behaviour ricochets through others' lives is laugh-out-loud hilarious, while also being a perceptive slice-of-life drama blending sarcasm, cynicism and adult pathos in breathtaking fashion. Splendid performances from all three leads make this comedy drama even more of an unmissable treat. It is doubtful 1998 will bring us better ensemble playing or such miraculous chemistry evident between Nicholson and Hunt. Nicholson is best-selling writer Melvin Udall, a compulsive-obsessive who hates his well-ordered existence being usurped by anything resembling normal behaviour. As the neighbour from hell, he only leaves his germ-free apartment to eat (using his own plastic cutlery) at a local restaurant where waitress Carol Connelly (Hunt) works. It's after a thoughtless remark about Carol's chronically asthmatic son that Melvin for once does the decent thing. Because he can't bear the possibility of Carol not being there to serve him, he arranges for her son to receive first class medical attention. She can't believe it. Why would this intensely annoying curmudgeon do this and what is he expecting in return? Then Melvin's insecure gay neighbour Simon (Kinnear) is violently mugged and Melvin grudgingly helps him out too.
It's how Melvin becomes gradually humanized that forms the main thrust of Brooks's sensationally fresh and heartfelt saga. The astonishing ability to move his well-drawn characters from humour to poignancy in a second is one of his major triumphs here. So is the eye-brow raising dialogue uttered by Melvin, which would be offensive to every race and sex if it weren't so roll-in-the-aisles funny. "Get white and get serious" is one typical remark Nicholson makes to Gooding Jr when they are formulating ways to get his friend Simon out of debt. For once a movie title doesn't lie because this quirky charmer truly is as good as it gets.
By Alan Jones

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