A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film deals candidly with homophobia, violence, mortality, and mental disorders. It includes a very violent and disturbing attack on one of the main characters, which leaves the man hospitalized and disfigured. A character verbally abuses others as a means of coping with his own extreme self-centered and (clinically) obsessive-compulsive behavior.
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What's the story?
In AS GOOD AS IT GETS, Jack Nicholson plays Melvin, a hostile, reclusive, obsessive-compulsive romance writer who lives his life eating with plastic flatware, avoiding stepping on cracks, and steering clear of dirt, human contact, or disorder. The film follows the intersecting lives of Melvin, his gay artist neighbor Simon (Greg Kinnear), and a local waitress, Carol (Helen Hunt), the mother of a chronically ill child. After a brutal attack on Simon, Melvin is forced to disrupt his orderly life to care for his neighbor's dog (and in the process Simon). Ultimately, the film examines the trio's initial disdain for each other and the ways in which their circumstances can assist them in achieving physical and mental well-being.
Is it any good?
Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson garnered Academy Awards, and Kinnear a nomination, for their true-to-life performances -- and all three were well-deserved. Often pitched as a romantic comedy, As Good as it Gets eschews the saccharine aftertaste of many such films. Instead, it provides sometimes-painful moments of self-discovery and the possibility for a pleasant (though less than "normal") tomorrow for its trio characters.
Parents might want to consider their child's level of maturity before allowing them to watch this movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about issues such as tolerance, mental illness, and personal strength. What is at the bottom of Melvin's homophobic remarks toward Simon? What helps him overcome these feelings? The film illustrates the struggles of a single mother attempting to care for her chronically ill child and live a life of her own. Parents may want to use this opportunity to discuss a topic seldom considered by adolescents: the lives of parents beyond the needs of their children.
- In theaters: December 25, 1997
- On DVD or streaming: May 19, 1998
- Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., Helen Hunt, Jack Nicholson
- Director: James L. Brooks
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 139 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: appeal for strong language, thematic elements, nudity and a beating
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