As Good As It Gets

There are a few good (Oscar-winning or nominated) performances in this New York-set dramedy by James L Brooks, including Jack Nicholson as Melvin, an obsessive-compulsive disorder-suffering misanthrope (a character who doesn’t hold back with regard to racist, sexist and homophobic slurs), and Helen Hunt as a kind-hearted waitress who, incredibly, still takes pity on him and continues to serve him in a busy diner; Greg Kinnear is OK, too, as a gay artist who lives next to Melvin in the same apartment block. It’s the small acts of kindness Nicholson’s troubled writer bestows on the other two that propel the narrative forward, indicating to us that his character is not all bad and also serving as the catalyst for the unlikely bonds that develop between the three. It feels very much of its time, instantly recognisable as a 1990s film, and it’s hard to imagine something similar today that focuses on such an unlikeable character being such a big box office hit. There are some wry lines in Brooks’ screenplay (co-written with Mark Andrus) but it eventually becomes apparent that they’re loaded towards the beginning of the movie; I got tired, in the end, and unfortunately started tuning out. (***)