Some Musings about “As Good as It Gets”
As Good as It Gets is a romantic comedy about a completely unkind and sharp-tongued man named Melvin Udall (played by Jack Nicholson) and how he eventually finds love and as a result becomes a much nicer person. Melvin has OCD and the movie goes to great lengths in the beginning to establish this. Every time he shuts his door, he turns the lock five times, before he enters a room turns on the lights five times, and whenever he washes his hands, he uses extremely hot water with a new bar of soap (and then promptly tossing the newly opened soap into the trash can after use). The movie continues to drop hints about his OCD for the rest of the film. For instance, when he walks down the street, he avoids the cracks and at restaurants he refuses to use the provided utensils but instead provides his own plastic utensils which are stored away in a Ziploc bag that he carries everywhere. In the end, the movie seems to imply that he is able to get over his OCD by falling in love with someone and learning to care for a person that he used to despise, his gay neighbor. He no longer is seen so preoccupied with locking his door and turning on the lights a set number of times, but is simply normal. As a result, he is now a much better person.
The movie tries to use the OCD as the reason for his bad attitude towards everyone, as if his attitude stemmed from the fact that he had OCD. I found this hard to believe since at one point in the movie he confesses to someone that he refuses to take the medication that would help relieve the symptoms of OCD, indicating that perhaps he doesn’t seem to think that having a nasty attitude is wrong. If he had been a nicer guy before being diagnosed with OCD and then became mean afterward, I would think that he would take the medication that would help him be a nicer person, but since he refused, this would imply that his bad personality preceded the onset of OCD. I could easily imagine Melvin being the way that he was whether he had OCD or not, so it made it hard to sympathize with him or see him as a victim of his disorder. The biggest problem in Melvin’s life is that he is mean and I wasn’t convinced that this was due to his OCD. The movie would have been more interesting if it had spent more time connecting his mental disorder with his attitude and then chronicling his battle to overcome his disease rather than his personality. It would have been better if the movie had never mentioned that he had OCD as it seemed like a shallow way to approach a serious psychological disorder, but I suppose the movie had to try something to get the audience to pity Melvin.