20 Movies 20 Years Later

One Rom-Com Proves That There’s Life-Changing Potential When You Step Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

“As Good As It Gets” turns 20 this year.

20 Movies 20 Years Later remembers and explores the films that touched us back then and still resonate today. Join A Plus as we rewatch movies released in 1997 and celebrate their contributions to pop culture.

As a romantic comedy, As Good As It Gets takes viewers through one character's daily personal struggles and ultimately ends with him finding love in an unexpected place. That premise isn't too out of the ordinary for the genre, but that would do little to recognize the particular charm Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt bring to the film.


Nicholson, who scored a Best Actor Oscar for As Good As It Gets, plays the role of Melvin Udall, a romance author with obsessive-compulsive tendencies who favors rituals and patterns, and has no problem not biting his tongue if others don't conform. He also refuses to step on sidewalk cracks, because, well, you know, you might break your mother's back. Point is, he's set in his ways and sees no reason to change the way he lives his life.

Hunt, meanwhile, snagged the Oscar for Best Actress by playing a Carol Connelly, a single mom whose son suffers from chronic asthma, and who is the waitress Melvin prefers at his local haunt. Her character's genuine yet bruised soul is one that's easy to fall in love with, which is what starts to happen with when Nicholson — with his deep, cracked voice and rough but beautiful demeanor — plays into the "opposite's attract" storyline.

Of course, love can't be instant in a rom-com, and circumstances generally have to build to bring two cosmically destined individuals together. That comes in the form of Melvin's neighbor Simon (Greg Kinnear), an artist who lives across the hall and whose dog, Verdell, Nicholson's character detests. But when Simon, an artist, is badly hurt in an attack, it's Melvin who ends up taking care of the dog at the insistence of Frank (Cuba Gooding Jr.), building a bond with the animal and forcing him to let down his guard.

This small act forever impacts Melvin before he impacts Carol's life and that of her son, as well as that of Simon, who soon begins to heal through finding a new muse and rediscovering his creativity, while also reconnecting with his estranged family. And it's all done with catchy quotes, well-acted drama, and intense introspection mixed with comedy to the point of when Nicholson's character professes "You make me want to be a better man," it doesn't feel forced or out of character.

But a consistent theme throughout As Good As It Gets — beyond the rom-com-necessary trope of almost losing love before it's found — is how regularly the characters who are so stuck in their ways, OCD influenced or not, simply should step out of their comfort zones in order to be inspired or to find the change they so desperately long for. For some, the reasons why are forced upon them, but for others, it was a matter of doing what they've always done, accepting their static nature, or thinking the way they've always thought. But upon the idea of change, they find greatness — showing that sometimes, taking a risk can have big rewards.

As Good As It Gets is available on Amazon, Google PlayHulu, iTunesNetflix, and YouTube

Cover image: TriStar Pictures

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