A movie that more than lives up to its name

Jack Nicholson and friend in 'As Good As it Gets'.
Jack Nicholson and friend in 'As Good As it Gets'.

There are few films I can fall for within the first scene, but with ‘As Good As it Gets’, there was never going to be any doubt.

Quite apart from the fact it stars the always outstanding Jack Nicholson, any film that opens with someone dropping their neighbour’s dog down a garbage chute gets my vote.

Nicholson’s character, the misanthropic, obsessive compulsive author Melvin Udall, works from home, is openly hostile to his neighbours and only ventures out to have breakfast at the same table in the same restaurant, served by the same waitress, Carol (Helen Hunt) every morning.

When his gay artist neighbour, Simon Bishop (Greg Kinnear), is nearly killed during a robbery Melvin is intimidated into caring for Simon’s dog, Verdell, which proves to be a turning point.

Melvin becomes emotionally attached to it, to the point he’s reluctant to return it, and as a result receives more attention from Carol. His life is further altered when Carol decides to work closer to her home in Brooklyn so she can care for her acutely asthmatic son.

Unable to cope, Melvin arranges to pay for her son’s medical expenses if Carol agrees to return to work. Meanwhile, facing bankruptcy after his release from hospital, Simon is forced to approach his estranged parents for money. His agent Frank Sachs (Cuba Gooding Jr) offers Melvin his car to take him from New York to Baltimore to do so. Uncomfortable with the arrangement, Melvin invites Carol along to ease the awkwardness.

The road trip has a profound effect on all three, each reaching their own version of enlightenment and an unlikely romance begins. Despite his best efforts, Melvin’s self-interest opens up a whole new world for him. Peppered with sharp one-liners from both Nicholson and Hunt, who both won Oscars, the main attraction is the chemistry of the three very different leads who demonstrate that there’s hope for all of us.