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As Good As It Gets and the Dinner Confession Moment

The One-Line Summary: Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) an eccentric, reclusive, germaphobic, obsessive-compulsive, bigoted, misanthrope, has just about everything in his life flipped upside down when his homosexual neighbor is badly injured and needs for Udall to house his dog, though that is nothing compared to the emotions he’s feeling about a lovely waitress named Carol (Helen Hunt) who is the only one in the city that will tolerate his abusive personality but decides to leave work to better care for her sick son, a situation that sends Udall into turmoil.

TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

The Two-Line Blurb: A saccharine sweet but ultimately satisfying movie directed by James L. Brooks, As Good As It Gets, won both leads Academy Awards for their inspired work and is the core of the story, though the relationship between Udall and his neighbor Simon (Greg Kinnear) is really the heart of the character arc for the curmudgeony man who is so debilitated with his ailment he can barely move. Kinnear gives his best performance as an artist struggling with motivation after a devastating assault and robbery almost kills him, creating some of the more touching moments in the movie as he recovers.

The Three-Line Set-up: This moment is all about recognizing the need for change, and starts with Udell in the diner where Carol struggles to make a living and Udall’s aggressive need to have only her be his server at a very specific table, which causes some uncomfortable situations to be sure among the patrons and staff. Meanwhile, as Udall, who at first hated the small dog forced upon him by Simon’s agent Frank (Cuba Gooding Jr.), has grown to truly cherish the company the little animal provides and is becoming emotionally attached. When Simon returns from the hospital and takes the mutt back, coupled with the news that Carol is leaving her job, Udall is in a tailspin, but is hopeful when the three of them take a road trip to Simon’s parent’s home where relationships for all greatly improve. 

The Four-Line Moment: Udall is fully aware of his condition and is in the care of a professional doctor who has prescribed medication, though Udall adamantly admits he hates pills. Carol, a good-natured and kind woman who is eternally patient and yet complex and unaware of her own allure is flummoxed by the seemingly impossible to handle Udall until the road trip paints him in a different light and she eventually agrees to go to dinner with him, a commitment by him that already expresses how interested he is. Udall, who is a novelist by trade, is having difficulty expressing to her how he feels, describing his personality and the medical treatments he’s received, though admits that after a certain incident between the two early left him feeling empty, has gone back on his medication, claiming that this is his compliment to her. She is a bit unsure how this could possibly be words of praise for her until he looks her in the eye and tells her that she makes him want to be a better man, a confession that wholly stuns and ultimately, deeply touches Carol.

The Five-Word Review: Great performances boost predictable story.

Clip courtesy Movieclips



James L. Brooks


Mark Andrus (story), Mark Andrus (screenplay)

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