scent-of-a-woman

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Scent of a Woman (1992 - R)

"Scent of a Woman" is a poignant drama that captures the aging ex Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, a blind, disgruntled, retired, angry old man who is at the fulcrum of his life journey. When an unsuspecting college student answers a want ad to substitute as his caretaker over Thanksgiving weekend he will unknowingly be taken for the ride of his life when the desperate Frank Slade sweeps him away to New York for the ride of both their lives.

The cast includes: Chris O'Donnell, Al Pacino, and James Rebhorn.

Written by: Giovanni Arpino (novel) and William Goldman (screenplay).

Directed by: Martin Brest.

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Summary:

The film commences with a picturesque scene of a quaint town and its upscale New England Ivy League all-boys college, Baird. There, a trio of meddling boys engages in their ritualistic morning banter of slandering and libeling any poor soul that passes by. On this particular morning their latest scapegoat happens to be Headmaster Trask (James Rheborn) and his outlandish new Jaguar. After posse leader Lloyd immediately processes towards the unsuspecting Trask, in vainglorious brown-nosing style, the cocky boy returns to his gang whereby they discuss the fully exciting possibilities of a lavish Christmas vacation paid by the pocket expenses of their parents' latest Visa card.

Pan to the 'underprivileged' Charlie Sims (Chris O'Donnell); new member to Baird and even newer to the rambunctious posse and their wily ways. Never looking for trouble Charlie, and his friend (Phillip Seymour), stand idly by as their friends rig a classic prank that involves the mortification of Headmaster Trask and the vandalizing of his beloved Jaguar. As Headmaster Trask puts the pressure on Charlie to come forth with incriminating evidence, the humble boy dodges interrogation and heads to a small house owned by the Rossi family in hopes he can answer their Help Wanted Ad and earn enough money to pay for airfare home to Oregon for Christmas break.

But with no job description catalogued in the Ad the last thing Charlie expected was to have to baby-sit a grumbling, blind, aged, alcoholic; former Colonel Frank Slade (Al Pacino). As he hesitantly hears out the job description he prepares to spend his Thanksgiving weekend mulling over his latest academic predicament while playing babysitter to the acrid Frank Slade. Ready for a mundane, albeit predictable weekend, the very last thing Charlie expects to happen is a last minute first class air fare to New York alongside his precarious dependent.

As Frank Slade wines and dines at the most lavish locales in New York, from the Waldorf Astoria to the Oak Room, Frank lets Charlie in on a few 'pearls' of life; from the pivotal recognition of the multiplicity of womanly scents to the importance of appreciating the fineries of life as much as the strength of filial bonds, no matter how begrudging, to the necessity of certain moral platitudes, and finally, to the fragility of the human soul. As Frank and Charlie head to Frank's brother's house for Thanksgiving dinner, mayhem of filial libeling incurs from his despising nephew. With Frank's tragic secret in the back of Charlie's mind, the most tragic sight of all seems to be this repellent man outcast from the begrudging lack of hospitality on behalf of his own flesh and blood.

To brighten up the mood Charlie and Frank head to the latest upscale restaurant where they run into a beautiful woman by the name of Donna. As the Colonel and Charlie accompany her in her wait, the blind Colonel sweeps her off her feet andallows her the coveted opportunity of dancing the tango. For several lingering minutes the two are alive as they waltz across the floor, the fire of life flashing in Slades eyes; for a moment, no matter how brief, the Colonel is alive, just like when he would later drive a Ferrari as Charlie feverishly grips the safety bars praying the Hail Mary that the Colonel doesn't careen into the nearest garbage dumpster.

But no sooner does the Colonel complete his elation via wily tricks and lavish experiences than he finds himself ready to say farewell to this Earth. As Charlie attempts to give Colonel Frank Slade a reason to live the temporarily pacified man once again returns to his cantankerous state with a cocked 45 in his hand. Can the savvy genteel academic rhetorically persuade Frank to find a reason to keep on living or does perhaps, maybe, the Colonel have a reason of his own; and could it possibly have something to do with that bittersweet pungent scent of a woman at sunrise? And that, is something worth living for.

"Scent of a Woman" is a powerful drama with a poignant score and an even more poignant performance by the legendary Al Pacino, for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor. As the blind Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, Pacino revels in the growling fury of his infamous voice, his intimidating stature overwhelms us in the guise of a staunchly patriotic ex-Colonel; in a sense Al Pacino was the perfect man to conflate the honorable with the detestable, the intriguing with the despising in this troubled, lonely character with a knack for recognizing the myriad of scents prone to females. A young Chris O'Donnell gives a solid performance as the honorable Charlie Sims and one will be rather amused to witness a disarmingly young Phillip Seymour grace the screen as a rambunctious, spoiled Ivy League student.

Beyond the strength of the cast quite possibly the strongest, otherwise most haunting aspect of the film was the score by Thomas Newman. A spellbinding tune full of melancholy and conflict acutely reflects Pacino's aged character longing for his vibrant days of youth. Though unable to quite discern where and when it has been repeated, this score is a solid composition for tragic elements or dramatic scenes and upon hearing the haunting piece one instantly feels familiar with the tune, as if it has, and quite possibly it has, appeared in other film(s) thereafter. Thorin does a solid job with the cinematography and Martin Brest should be proud to put this film on his resume as one of his most accomplished projects to date; far more compelling than the more recent flop "Gigli".

One of the most memorable components of the film is the dialogue. Al Pacino's character is loaded with witty euphemisms, one-liners, and uncanny anecdotes for the human condition that will captivate, amuse, compel, inspire, and depress simultaneously. In fact Pacino's character is remarkably memorable in that he is representative of the grand spectrum of human emotion; trial and triumph, happiness and sorrow, respectability and detestability are all rolled into one man with a knack for driving Ferraris and dancing the tango.

"Scent of a Woman" won the Oscar for Best Actor (Al Pacino), was nominated for the Oscar's of Best Picture and Best Writing from Other Medium (Screenplay), and was also the recipient of 4 other critical film awards and another 8 nominations.

Main Characters:

Chris O'Donnell plays Charles 'Charlie' Sims, an underprivileged federally dependent Ivy League student whose life is forever changed after he answers a 'Help Wanted Ad' in hopes of making a little money.

Al Pacino plays Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, an aged blind ex-Colonel who befriends his caretaker Charlie, during his wily adventures in New York over Thanksgiving weekend.

Phillip Seymour plays George Willis Jr., Charlie's ambivalent and spoiled Ivy colleague.

James Rebhorn plays Headmaster Trask, the straight collared Dean of Baird who, after being the butt of an indecent joke, attempts to reclaim his pride by holding a trial and condemning the nefarious villains meddling with the sacred Baird reputation.