As Good As It Gets
If you needed any proof that Greg Kinnear could act, look no further than this magnificent human dramedy from James L. Brooks, the man who brought Mary Tyler Moore and The Simpsons to our (once small) TV screens. Kinnear plays Simon, a gay artist whose brutal, near-death bashing brings him unwittingly into the path of Melvin (Jack Nicholson), an OCD misanthrope with extra bile for homosexuals, and Carol (Helen Hunt), a waitress who’s an imperative part of Melvin’s compulsive daily routine. The three go off on a road trip that draws them deeply and meaningfully into one another’s lives. As Good As It Gets tells the story of Melvin and Carol’s unlikely romance, but Simon is the catalyst. Kinnear’s performance is notable for its down-to-earth sturdiness — any flamboyance is saved for his agent, played by Cuba Gooding Jr. in fey overdrive. Kinnear brings a vulnerability to Simon that is at once heartbreaking and sweetly affirming. It’s a lovely, everyday portrayal of a gay man. Hunt and Nicholson both won Oscars for their extraordinary performances. Kinnear was nominated, but took home no trophies. He should have. Boy, he should have. –Randy Shulman
The Broken Hearts Club
Thirty years after the groundbreaking but bitter gay film The Boys in the Band, Greg Berlanti’s directorial debut The Broken Hearts Club was christened ”The Boys in the Bland” by the Village Voice. And yet, the gay romantic comedy’s very ordinariness is part of what made it stand out and become a hit among gay audiences, who at that time were tiring of shopworn AIDS-related tragedies and coming-out tales. The film is also notable for a cast that includes a handful of moderately well-known Hollywood actors, including Dean Cain and Zach Braff, helping douse once and for all the long-dominant canard that playing gay would tarnish or pigeonhole a film career. Thirteen years later – and three years after television writer and producer Berlanti’s only other film, the formulaic and roundly panned Katherine Heigl-vehicle Life As We Know It, The Broken Hearts Club is still charming, even heartwarming, in its portrayal of a circle of gay friends in West Hollywood. It’s a case of Hollywood getting something right for a change: Just as it is with many real-life gay people, these friends act as a family, supporting each other through love, loss and softball. –DR
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