When I was in my late teens, “As Good as it Gets” with Jack Nicholson was a gangbuster comedy and a rare funny movie that got Oscar love.
The story follows a cranky old novelist Melvin who gets irate if every little thing in his life isn’t exactly perfect. When his usual waitress (Helen Hunt) takes sick leave to care for her ill son, Melvin goes bonkers because no other waitress is able to handle all of his unusual little requests and quirks and demands.
He finds the waitress and hires a great doctor to cure the boy. Waitress and Melvin become unlikely friends and they take Melvin’s neighbor (Greg Kinnear) on a road trip. Greg is an artist who is attacked and robbed and he has to suck it up and ask his estranged parents who don’t approve of his gay lifestyle for a loan to keep him afloat as he has lost so much money due to the attack and medical bills etc.
At some point in the film, Melvin realizes he will never not be pissed off all the time. Helen Hunt will always be an unappreciated single mom. Greg will probably keep letting the wrong people into his life who do bad things to him (the robbery and attack were from a former boyfriend).
Melvin says, “What if this is as good as it gets?”
In other words, a point comes where we realize we have peaked and it is unlikely that life will ever get any better. If anything, it’s just a steep decline until death from hereon out.
As I reach 40, I realize the time to get things done is when you are young. Unfortunately, I spent my best years making a lot of dumb decisions and I thought my youth made me Superman, “Eh, I’ll fix my life tomorrow for I have plenty of time. Today, I will eat cookies and play video games.”
It would have been nice to have gotten a sequel. Maybe Jack and Helen get married and Jack becomes less dickish since he has love and Helen can breathe a little easier if Jack is helping with the kid.
Maybe Greg will find a love that won’t break into his house and beat him up and steal his stuff.
I don’t know. But I’ll tell you I didn’t get that line when I was younger but now that I’m older, I understand it. What if this is as good as it gets?
P.S. – One of my favorite quotes. A female fan asks novelist Jack “How do you write women so well?” He responds, “I think of a man and then I take away reason and accountability.”
So much of this movie probably wouldn’t fly today even though the movie was fairly “woke” for its time. Jack was a cranky prick who made fun of Greg for being gay but when the chips were down, he cared enough about his neighbor to lend a hand. Jack’s obviously been jilted in the past so that he doesn’t have a lot of respect for women but Helen’s kindness helps him find it. Actually, that’s another great line. “You make me want to be a better man.”
Today, in a reboot everyone would have to be nice and get a long but maybe the point is we’ll all never see eye to eye since our experiences have been different but can we count on each other when the chips are down is the question.
OH, I SHOULD MAKE A POINT: The point is, I wish I had understood when I saw this movie in my late teens that life eventually does peak, so when I was young, I should have climbed a much higher mountain so I could have a much better view for a while in my 40s and possibly 50s before I start tumbling down the hill in my 60s (if I get that far, hopefully, knock on wood.) So, if you’re a younger member of the 3.5 reader club, start climbing now, bitch.