Film Quote Friday (Saturday edition)

Well, it didn’t take long for me to miss a day on this feature, did it? Oops! Thursday was largely taken up by a reinstallation of Windows on the Main Library Computer here at Casa Jaquandor, and Friday was one of those up-at-oh-dark-thirty early-starts-at-work days, followed by a longer than usual nap and generally letting my brain just slosh around in my brain pan for the rest of the night. Not great for blogging. Anyway, this is one of my favorite movies:

I remember when this came out, the advertising was all about Jack Nicholson’s Melvin Udall, who was billed as Archie Bunker with the offensiveness dialed up to eleven, and the film itself billed as a typical “grumpy mean guy learns to love” tale or something of that nature. And yes, it is that, but the movie is a lot more intelligent and insightful about it than that basic plot description makes it sound. It’s not just about Melvin and his goofy infatuation with his server (Carol Connelly, played by Helen Hunt) at the restaurant on which he has chosen to inflict his aggressive OCD tendencies, and very early on the film affords us glimpses into Melvin that suggest that there’s a lot more than just jerkiness going on under his skin — such as the look on his face when he slips up and says something to Carol that’s way over the line, and he realizes it’s way over the line before she tells him point-blank how over the line it was.

Anyway, As Good As It Gets is chock-full of quotable dialog, some of which has become fairly well-known over the years. I’m sure the movie will show up again on this feature, but for now, here’s a wonderful scene that gets overlooked. What’s happening here is that Melvin has been strong-armed into taking his gay artist neighbor, Simon, to Baltimore so Simon can beg his estranged parents for money. Sensing an opportunity, Melvin then convinces Carol to go along, which she does, because she’s desperate for a chance to see something other than the restaurant where she works, the apartment where she lives, and the hospital where she takes her sickly son. The problem, for Melvin, is that Carol and Simon quickly form a friendly connection that Melvin sees as some kind of threatening: not a romantic rivalry, per se, but a competition for time with Carol that he feels is rightly his. And Melvin can’t help himself but inject some of his own insight, which the film treats brilliantly as both annoying and partly true.

I think that’s a big reason why this movie is so good: Melvin can be annoying and offensive and downright full of shit, but there are times when it’s clear that he’s also right, at least in part. This is one of them.


 A short time later. Carol is now driving.

      I'm sure, Simon, they did 
      something real off for you to feel 
      this way... But when it comes to 
      your partners -- or your kid -- 
      things will always be off for you 
      unless you set it straight. Maybe 
      this thing happened to you just to 
      give you that chance.


      Anybody here who's interested in 
      what Melvin has to say raise their 

 Simon does not raise his hand. Simon and Carol have thus 
 declared their majority.

      Do you want to know what happened 
      with my parents?

      Yes. I really would.


      No, let me pull over so I can pay 
      full attention.

 Car pulling over toward parking spot.


 She takes the car curbside and parks.

      Now go ahead.

 Simon looks back at Melvin as does Carol. He looks 
 innocent. Several beats -- Melvin almost says something 
 -- a hidden hand gesture from Carol stops him. Finally.

      Well, I always painted. Always. 
      And my mother always encouraged 
      it. She was sort of fabulous 
      about it actually... and she used 
      to... I was too young to think 
      there was anything at all wrong 
      with it... and she was very 
      natural. She used to pose nude 
      for me... and I thought or assumed 
      my father was aware of it.

      This stuff is pointless.

      Hey -- you let him... 

      You like sad stories -- you want 

      Stop. Go ahead, Simon. Really. 
      Please. Don't let him stop you. Ignore him.

      Okay. Well, one day my father 
      came in on one of those painting 
      sessions when I was nine -- and he 
      just started screaming at her -- 
      at us -- at evil. And... 

       (very quickly)
  ... my father didn't leave his 
  room for 11 years -- he hit my 
  hand with a yardstick if I made a 
  mistake on the piano.

      Go ahead, Simon. Your father 
      walked in on you and was yelling 
      and... really, come on.

      I was trying to defend my mother 
      and make peace, in the lamest way. 
      I said, "she's not naked -- it's 
      art." And then he started hitting 
      me. And he beat me unconscious. 
      After that he talked to me less 
      and less -- he knew before I left 
      for college, my dad came into my 
      room. He held out his hand. It 
      was filled with money. A big wad 
      of sweaty money.
       (gathers himself)
      And he said to me, "I don't want 
      you to ever come back." I grabbed 
      him and I hugged him... He turns 
      and walked out.

 Carol, whose life has been rugged but basic, feels as 
 strange as she does moved by Simon's trauma which is so 
 much more complicated than her meat and potatoes 
 troubles. She looks out her window -- then kisses her 
 fingers and touches them to Simon's cheek. A nice, 
 understated, gesture of friendship.

      Well, you know -- I still stay 
      what I said. You've got to get 
      past it all when it comes to your 
      parents. We all have these horror 
      stories to get over.

 Melvin shifts INTO the FRAME.

      That's not true. Some of us have 
      great stories... pretty stories 
      that take place at lakes with 
      boats and friends and noodle 
      salad. Just not anybody in this 
      car. But lots of people -- that's 
      their story -- good times and 
      noodle salad... and that's what 
      makes it hard. Not that you had 
      it bad but being that pissed that 
      so many had it good.


      Not it at all, really.

       (a veteran's irony)
      Not at all, huh?!... Let's go to 
      the hotel. And if you're lucky 
      tomorrow Dad will give you another 
      wad of sweaty money.

That metaphor cracks me up: “Good times, noodle salad”. I just love the idea of a mind wired so that a primary image of someone living a life of relative happiness involves noodle salad.

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2 Responses to Film Quote Friday (Saturday edition)

  1. Roger Owen Green says:

    I just never warmed up to this movie, mostly because it felt like it was Jack doing Jack.

  2. Jeremy Bates says:

    I absolutely enjoyed this movie. The OCD's by Jack's character were worthy of note. I also like his interaction with the dog, very cool.

    I must have seen this movie a half-dozen times.

    Con-Science? That can't be right. lol

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