As Good as it Gets is better than good. It’s one a few romantic comedies good enough to be nominated for Best Picture. It might’ve stood a chance of winning if not for the unstoppable force that was Titanic. Ironically, both movies happen to feature a nude drawing scene. As Good as it Gets is the last film from director James L. Brooks to receive Oscar attention. Brooks managed to direct Jack Nicholson to a third Academy Award win after Terms of Endearment. Nicholson winning Best Actor and Helen Hunt winning Best Actress make them the most current co-stars to win for the same movie. Surprisingly, every female lead won an Oscar alongside Nicholson since Louise Fletcher won for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Shirley MacLaine won for Terms of Endearment.
Melvin Udall is a perfect character for Nicholson that could’ve missed the mark in the wrong hands. Melvin is a romance novelist who hates and insults literally everybody. His obsessive-compulsive idiosyncrasies include keeping his hands clean, not stepping on cracks, and eating at the same restaurant every day. Carol is the only waitress that tolerates his behavior. Hunt immediately shows her range with an emotional performance. Carol is a lonely single mother trying to care for her sick son Spencer. The third most prominent performance is from Greg Kinnear in a Best Supporting Actor nominated role as Melvin’s gay artist neighbor Simon. All three performances are terrific, but As Good as it Gets also contains a ton of celebrities in big and small roles. Cuba Gooding Jr. followed up his Oscar win with an equally entertaining role as Simon’s agent who manages to break Melvin.
Skeet Ulrich and Jamie Kennedy have an unexpected Scream reunion. Since it’s a Brooks production, Lisa Simpson herself Yeardley Smith has a small role. There’s also Shirley Knight as Carol’s concerned mother and Harold Ramis as a life changing doctor. Brian Doyle-Murray, Lawrence Kasdan, Julie Benz, and Shane Black also have memorable cameos. Not to mention Missi Pyle, Wood Harris, and even Maya Rudolph in their first or second film roles. Melvin is openly homophobic towards Simon, but he reluctantly agrees to watch his adorable dog Verdell after a devastating robbery. The small act of watching Simon’s dog is enough to soften Melvin up and set him on a path of redemption. Though they seem like an odd match, Carol is the one who makes him want to be a better man. And that’s As Good as it Gets in more ways than one.