"People who talk in metaphors should have to shampoo my crotch."
I'm drowning here, and you're describing the water!Here's the thing about Jim Brooks: he can do wonders with really original characters. He can, and he has. Just rent Broadcast News or Terms Of Endearment. He gets a chance to do it again here, but for some reason, it doesn't really seem to work.
Why is that?
Because you have a plot that's so conventional, so obviously driven towards it's happy ending, that you get the feel that each character is being forced to follow that path. You want to think that maybe this movie will be about how lonely Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) really is, or even just a simple "old man who turns out to have a heart of gold," like another modern day Scrooge type. But it doesn't. It goes with the old familiar, the safe and sane, and really good performances are stuck.
Let me say that again: really good performances are stuck. Specifically Nicholson. Yes, he may be doing his same old thing, being Jack, but there's more here to Melvin. Was it worthy of an Oscar? Probably not. I think Robert Duvall got robbed by sentimentality. But it is the role of Nicholson's career, and he does go all out with it. Greg Kinnear also does extremely well here as Melvin's gay neighbor Simon, who gets beaten up. Melvin then has to take care of Simon's dog, falls for it, then of course changes from the guy who hates everyone to the guy who wins everyone over. It's contrived, and you see it coming. I was less impressed with Helen Hunt's performance (certainly not Oscar worthy), although it's light years ahead of what she does on Mad About You, where she's stuck letting Paul Reiser have all the jokes.
That's not to say it's a horrible movie, you just should see it for what it is.How can you diagnose someone as having obsessive-compulsive disorder and yet criticize him for not making an appointment?