Making the Grades
Jack Nicholson is Melvin, a novelist with an obsessive-compulsive disorder. He lives in a New York apartment across the hall from Simon (Greg Kinnear), a gay artist with a cute little dog. Melvin and Simon can barely stand to walk the same hallway, so when Simon confronts some thieves in his apartment and is brutally beaten, it's a miracle that Melvin even takes the time to call 911. More amazing still, he finds himself looking after the dog while Simon recuperates in the hospital.
Melvin is so obnoxious that we wonder what could possibly change his attitude, until we meet Carol (Helen Hunt), a waitress at the local diner where Melvin eats breakfast at precisely 11 am every morning. Carol isn't intimidated by Melvin's rude manner, and begins to bring out something buried deep within himself - his heart.
Remember in Grading the Movies lingo, C means "watch with caution," and that is a must with this film, which is full of minuses followed by pluses. MINUS: Melvin is a selfish ignorant man. PLUS: We overlook his faults, blaming them on his mental condition, and discover that he really does want to help - he just needs to keep his mouth shut. MINUS: Simon portrays a gay lifestyle. PLUS: Simon is a complex character whose life has been influenced by serious parental abuse, making his sexual orientation more understandable. MINUS: Helen Hunt is seen partially naked. PLUS: Helen Hunt is seen partially naked - but at least for the sake of art as she poses as Simon's model.
Seriously, this is a difficult movie to recommend even for older teens - parents should definitely pre-screen it. The film was originally rated R, appealed, and then downgraded to PG-13 and contains three major sexual expletives and innuendo, however none of the characters enter into sexual relationships. What's really right with this movie is the love and change of heart that develops in Melvin, and with what usually comes out of Hollywood, that may be as good as it gets.