REEL 13
Best Movies by Farr
RSS Feed asl RSS Feed

Later Jack

October 13, 2010

by John Farr

Tim Burton’s Batman stars Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader, but Jack Nicholson steals the film. Here are three more Nicholson standouts from later in his career.


A Few Good Men (1992)

Buy movie

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Assigned to defend two Marines accused of murder at Guantanamo Bay, pampered, insouciant Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) thinks he’s dealing with an open-and-shut case, and strikes a plea bargain with prosecutor Capt. Jack Ross (Kevin Bacon). But Lt. Commander JoAnne Galloway (Moore), brought in to assist the sharp but inexperienced Kaffee, points out discrepancies in the testimony and convinces him to pursue the case in court. The more they dig, the more secrets they uncover, leading them right up the ladder of top Navy brass.

WHY I LOVE IT:
This engrossing military-legal thriller from director Rob Reiner soars thanks to Aaron Sorkin’s gripping, expertly paced script (based on his hit Broadway play) and a brawny, high-wattage cast: Cruise and Moore make a winning pair of legal eagles, Bacon is commanding as Kaffee’s courtroom nemesis, and Jack Nicholson delivers one of his most indelible performances as Guantanamo Bay’s ranking officer, the arrogant, tough-as-nails Lt. Col. Nathan Jessup, who may or may not know more than he claims. Dealing with illegal hazing, government cover-ups, and the outer limits of military honor, “Men” packs a double-barreled wallop. Can you handle the truth?


As Good As It Gets (1997)

Buy movie

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) is an obsessive-compulsive neurotic with no friends, who ironically makes his living as a successful romance novelist. Melvin is forced to come out of his shell when gay neighbor Simon is injured and Melvin must care for his dog. Then there is Melvin’s growing attachment to the waitress who works at the diner he frequents. Carol (Helen Hunt) can handle Melvin (a major achievement), but she has a lot more on her plate, including carrying for an asthmatic son. Is this a scenario where love could blossom? You’d be surprised.

WHY I LOVE IT:
James L. Brooks’s quirky, touching film brims with humanity, as three societal misfits find each other and against steep odds, ultimately connect. Nicholson fits oddball Melvin like a defective glove, but it’s Oscar winner Helen Hunt who steals the film as the beleaguered, world-weary Carol. An unlikely romance with a big heart, this gem truly lives up to its title.


About Schmidt (2002)

Buy movie

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
After a long career of dutiful service to an Omaha insurance company, Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) retires and finds himself trapped in a meaningless existence with nothing much to look forward to. When his wife Helen (June Squibb) dies suddenly, Schmidt decides his own days may be few, so he packs up a whale-size Winnebago and sets out for Denver, where he hopes to convince daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) not to marry dim-witted salesman Randall (Dermot Mulroney).

WHY I LOVE IT:
This indelible dramedy by the director of “Sideways” examines regret, loss, and melancholic self-awareness. Nicholson gives a brave, brilliant performance as Schmidt, a decidedly unglamorous, ordinary man disappointed in his life, his marriage, and his daughter, achieving a late-career high. Mulroney, Davis, and the formidable Kathy Bates – playing Randall’s randy mother – all provide exceptional support, but this movie really belongs to Jack, who brings ingenuous warmth and heartbreaking honesty to his role. Based on Louis Begley’s novel, “Schmidt” strikes just the right balance between despair and hopefulness, poignant tragedy and hilarious hijinks.


Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

  • comments (0)
  • rayban

    Later Jack is great, and John Farr has picked three of the very best, especially “As Good As It Gets”.