Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) is a bitter, homophobic bigot suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. He insults everyone, lives alone, and writes trashy novels for a living.
The staff and fellow diners at his local restaurant live in fear of Melvin’s outbursts – with the exception of Carol (Helen Hunt), his regular waitress, with whom he begins an unlikely friendship.
Melvin makes a crass, very mean comment about Carol’s son, who is sick, and for Carol, this is one step too far. She makes him apologise – it’s not easy – but more importantly, she makes Melvin feel something. And he hasn’t felt anything in years, and now this is the beginning of him feeling a lot. Mainly for Carol, but also for a dog, and for all the other people he’s been mean to in his life.
Hunt plays that corniest of Hollywood characters – the lonely, frustrated waitress with a problem child. Offered the role when Holly Hunter turned it down, she won an Oscar for her pains (as did Nicholson), and she breathes life into the part, outshining her co-star and his trademark grouchy act.
The picture is a mixed blessing, shot on oddly retro studio sets and featuring Greg Kinnear in the clichéd role of a tormented homosexual artist with the pet dog.
Cuba Gooding Jr
James L Brooks