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SCENT OF A WOMAN (1992)

17 year old Charlie Simms is attending a New Hampshire exclusive private Baird Prep School on a full scholarship. To earn money for a plane trip home to Oregon at Christmas, he innocently takes a job over Thanksgiving weekend, looking after a verbally abusive, head-strong, blind, newly retired Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, little knowing what adventure he was in for as the Lieutenant Colonel turns out to be quite a handful, with plans of his own in the Big Apple.

The cast includes: Al Pacino, Chris O'Donnell, James Rebhorn, Gabrielle Anwar, Philip Seymour, Richard Venture, Rochelle Oliver, Bradley Witford, Gene Canfield, Nicholas Sadler, Matt Smith, Todd Louiso, Francis Conroy, and June Squibb.

SCENT OF A WOMAN was nominated for the Best Picture award.

The screenplay was written by Bo Goldman, based on the novel by Giovanni Arpino.

Directed by Martin Brest.

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Promotional Line: "Col. Frank Slade has a very special plan for the weekend. It involves travel, women, good
food, fine wine, the tango, chauffeured limousines and a loaded forty-five. And he's bringing Charlie along for the ride."

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The film begins with the situation of young, 17 year old Charlie Simms, a quiet student who is going to a private, rich boy's New Hampshire prepatory boarding school, Baird, on a full scholarship. It is the week before the long, Thanksgiving weekend, and he is looking for a job, so he can make some money for a plane ticket home to Oregon for Christmas. He answers the ad offering the opportunity to be a guardian for a blind man, retired Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (Al Pacino), a bitter, broken man, who drinks too much and having a lot of trouble adjusting to not only being a blind, retired, ex-military officer but having to live in the guest house of his niece, Karen Rossi and her family. When their first meeting doesn't go very well, Charlie takes the job anyway, after Karen pleads with him, telling him that he was the only one to answer the ad, and that she and her family really need to get away for this upcoming weekend.

A few days before he takes this life-changing job, Charlie's life is further complicated one evening, after locking up the school library where he works part time. As he is walking out to the parking lot with his friend, George Willis (Philip Seymour Huffman), they both witness at a distance, George's close friends/Charlie's acquaintances, Harry Havenmeyer (Nicholas Sadler), Jimmy Jameson (Matt Smith), and Trent Potter (Todd Louiso), hanging a plastic sack, filled with an unknown substance on the light pole, which hangs above the headmaster's parking space. Just then, a teacher, Mrs. Hunsaker appears, and George runs interference, distracting the woman, until the boys finish with their prank.

The next morning, headmaster Mr. Trask (Jame Rrebhorn) arrives, and stupidly tries to remove the plastic sack, which predictably breaks and spews paint all over Mr. Task and his beautiful sports car, which infuriates him. He calls George Willis and Charlie into his office, demanding to know who they saw the night before. Because both boys claim to not know, he meets with them individually. He offers a bribe to Charlie, offering to get him a scholarship to Yale. If Charlie doesn't tell, then he will face dire consequences. Mr. Task plans a court of inquiry, with the whole school present in front of the faculty-student judiciary committee on the Monday after the long Thanksgiving weekend. He plans to put both George and Charlie on the hot seat.

With this daunting problem hanging over his head, Charlie arrives to report to the Rossi home to begin his job as guardian for the weekend. After the Rossi's leave, Charlie begins his relationship with Lieutenant Colonel Slade by being taken first class on an airplane to New York by the difficult, but charming, and apparently suicidal Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, who is planning a weekend of enjoying everything in life he holds dear, before ending his now miserable existence. He ends his miserable existence all right but not by killing himself. He changes his attitude and finds purpose to his existence. The more time these two spend together enjoying fine clothes, fine dining, the best accommodations, a tango with a beautiful woman, a ride in a 10,000 dollar sports car (driven by Slade), they discover other treasures of life, which are being a friend, being needed and being able to make a difference in someone else's life, no matter how hard it is to do. They wind up doing something phenomenal for each other, giving each of them a life-changing experience.

This uplifting, poignant, well-written screenplay was the masterpiece of Bo Goldman, based on the novel by Giovanni Arpino. The dialogue in this script is especially effective, giving the talented cast plenty to work with. Goldmanâs talent as a screenwriter is showcased in such films as "One Flew Over the Cuckooâs Nest," "Melvin and Howard," "Shoot The Moon," and "Meet Joe Black."

The fine direction was by the talented Martin Brest, who also produced the film. His efforts guided Al Pacino's Oscar winning performance, and earned for himself a Best Director nomination, and a Best Picture nomination for the film itself. He also directed such well-done films as "Beverly Hills Cop," "Midnight Run," and "Meet Joe Black."

The actors and actresses were talented professionals, who made the most of the fabulous script and superb direction to bring the best of their talents to both their individual performances and their ensemble work as well.

Al Pacino's superb portrayal of Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade was the crown jewel in his career, earning him the Best Actor Academy award. His character gradually transforms from an abrasive, bitter broken man to a fiery defender of a young man about to be ruined because of his refusal to go against his principles. The highlight of his performance is his fiery, inspiring speech in front of the whole school and faculty-student judiciary committee at Trask's court of inquiry, where he forthrightly not only rips apart Task's recommendation that George Willis not be punished, and Charlie be expelled, but implores the council to think about what message that would spell out for the young men about integrity, courage and leadership.

Al Pacino also dances a mean tango!

Chris O'Donnell is convincing as Charlie Simms, a quiet, earnest, principled youth, without close, real friends at school, who takes his responsibilities seriously, and holds his own in scenes with Pacino. A favorite sequence of scenes is the dramatic struggle to keep Slade from killing himself. O'Donnell's reactions to the blind Slade's speeding in the sports car are priceless, especially when they are pulled over by a cop.

Philip Seymour Huffman's fine portrayal of George Willis Jr., jump-started his acting career. My favorite scene with him in it is when he is on stage in front of the whole school, with his father, who is sitting next to him, breathing down his neck, trying to find a way to answer Trask's relentless questions, without giving absolute eye-witness proof, which would condemn his friends. He comes up with a unique answer, that puts all the pressure on Charlie.

James Rebhorn, a fine supporting character actor, does a great job portraying the angry, determined headmaster, willing to do anything to save face and punish the culprits.

This film is rated R, a psychological drama for those over 17. Lieutenant Colonel Slade has quite a potty mouth, talks of the pleasures of women, and struggles with suicide, all adult themes meant for a mature audience.

Quote from Colonel Slade: "There is nothing like the sight of an amputated spirit. There is no prosthesis for that."

"A truly heartwarming story with marvelous acting, righteousness and friendship." - Johannes Liu.

If you enjoyed SCENT OF A WOMAN, you may like CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, ORDINARY PEOPLE, SCHINDLER'S LIST, FORREST GUMP, THE GODFATHER, THE GREEN MILE, THE HAUNTING, and/or LILIES OF THE FIELD.