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As Good As It Gets (1997, Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt)



As Meet the Parents proved, the return of a legend can be formidable. And just as Robert De Niro rehabilitated himself with a display of comic firepower, so Jack Nicholson returned to the fold in style. He plays Melvin Udall, a writer of romance novels whose real life is anything but loving. Tormented by an obsessive-compulsive disorder, he finds small pleasures in destroying the life of his gay neighbour Simon (Greg Kinnear) and terrorising the diners at his local restaurant, where only one waitress, Carol (Helen Hunt), will serve him.

When Simon is beaten up and hospitalised, Melvin is forced to look after his dog, and reconsider his misanthropy. When Carol skips work to nurse her asthmatic son, Melvin arranges medical cover for the child, to her surprise. Simon’s return proves the catalyst for all three to unite and Melvin agrees to drive him to Baltimore. Carol joins them and en route they begin to break the ice, with Melvin and Carol slowly gaining intimacy until his temper returns, and she leaves…

Half Howard Hughes, part Barbara Cartland, Melvin is one of cinema’s better recent ogres, armed with barbed-wire wit (‘Sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here,’) and a yearning for female company. As the unfortunate target of his intention, Carol fights fire with napalm (‘When you first entered the restaurant, I thought you were handsome… and then you spoke.’) It’s a delicious marriage that won Oscars for Nicholson and Hunt and took $300m globally.

production details
USA | 139 minutes | 1997

Director: James L. Brooks
Script: Mark Andrus, James L. Brooks,

Jack Nicholson as Melvin Udall
Helen Hunt as Carol Connelly
Skeet Ulrich as Vincent Lopiano
Shirley Knight as Beverly Connelly
Greg Kinnear as Simon Bishop
Wood Harris as Cafe 24 Busboy
Kathryn Morris as Psychiatric Patient
Randall Batinkoff as Carol’s date
Peter Jacobson as Man at Table
Julie Benz as Receptionist
Tom McGowan as Maitre D’
Paul Greenberg as Bar Waiter
Amy Anzel as Ballet Dancer (uncredited)
Maya Rudolph as Policewoman
Cuba Gooding Jr. as Frank Sachs
Yeardley Smith as Jackie Simpson
Lupe Ontiveros as Nora Manning
Lawrence Kasdan as Dr. Green
Harold Ramis as Dr. Bettes
Alison Rose as Psychiatric Patient
Jimmy Workman as Sean from the Bakery
Jamie Kennedy as Street Hustler
Brian Doyle-Murray as Handyman
Jesse James as Spencer Connelly
Linda Gehringer as Publisher
Kaitlin Hopkins as Woman in Lobby
Danielle Spencer as Veterinarian
Lisa Edelstein as Woman at Table
Danielle Brisebois as Singer
Todd Solondz as Man on Bus
Matt Malloy as Men’s Store Salesman
Bibi Osterwald as Neighbor Woman
Ross Bleckner as Carl
Bernadette Balagtas as Caterer
Jaffe Cohen as Partygoer
Laurie Kilpatrick as Partygoer
Alice Vaughn as Partygoer
Shane Black as Cafe 24 Manager
Stan Bly as Cafe 24 Customer
Missi Pyle as Cafe 24 Waitress
Tara Subkoff as Cafe 24 Waitress
Rebekah Johnson as Cafe 24 Waitress
Leslie Stefanson as Cafe 24 Waitress
Patricia Childress as Cafe 24 Waitress
Chloe Brooks as Child at Cafe 24
Cooper Brooks as Child at Cafe 24
Kristi Zea as Mother at Table
Justin Herwick as Street Hustler
John F. O’Donohue as Detective Ray
Mary Elizabeth Still as Nurse Receptionist
David A. Kipper as Hospital Doctor
Antonia Jones as Nurse
Maurice LaMarche as Fred Bishop – Simon’s Dad on Phone (voice) (uncredited)
Alex Ballar as Flower Store Customer (uncredited)
Bronwyn Cornelius as Bartender (uncredited)
Laura Mayes Byrnes as Restaurant Patron (uncredited)