I’m not saying As Good As It Gets was a great film or even one of the best of the ’90s, but it has six or seven scenes that deliver a certain kind of emotional bull’s-eye satisfaction by way of first-rate writing and world-class acting. And on top of the long-lamented death of theatrical middle-budget adult dramas, this sort of high-polish, push-the-right-button-in-just-the-right-way confection (which cost $50 million or $77 million in 2018 dollars) is just about extinct, certainly in the theatrical realm. As extinct as screwball comedies or VistaVision westerns or counter-culture drug-dealing dramas.
As Good as It Gets was the last film in which the two leads (Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt) won Best Actor and Best Actress. The big night wasn’t exactly 20 years ago (it happened on 3.23.98) but close enough.
One of the reasons this James L. Brooks film got funded was a belief that fall awards buzz (or even an actual statuette or two) might really make a difference to the financial bottom line. But if Brooks, Nicholson, Hunt, Gregg Kinnear and everyone else were 20 years younger and As Good As It Gets had been released in ’17, it probably wouldn’t have struck the same kind of emotional chords and might have even been dismissed by the New Academy Kidz (“Representation!…genre films deserve respect!…let’s give some others a chance!”) as typical middle-aged awards bait. For the Oscars have more or less become the MTV Awards (hat-tip to the HE commenter who said this a couple of days ago), and this is the world in which we’re all
stuck in living.