Saturday, June 20, 2015

Growth or Decay

Image result for as good as it gets imagesThe film As Good As It Gets is an urban fairy tale about unlikely relationships which speaks volumes about how people relate to each other.

In one scene Melvin (Jack Nicholson) and Carol (Helen Hunt) are in a fancy seafood restaurant in Baltimore. Having just a made a mad dash to buy a jacket and tie so he would be allowed in, Melvin makes a comment about how he was forced to dress formally, but she was allowed to wear a house dress. Carol takes great offence, naturally, even though Melvin did not intend to insult her. She then insists that Melvin pay her a compliment or else she will leave. Eventually Melvin comes up with what is the best line in the movie, "You make me want to be a better man."

Image result for as good as it gets imagesMelvin thus indicates his willingness to change for Carol. Given his mental problems (OCD and perhaps mild autism), this is a big thing for him, but instead of leaving well enough alone, Carol pushes him for more. She wants to know why he brought her on the trip, and under pressure, he says enough to make her angry and she takes off. Carol's neediness insists on more intimacy than Melvin is ready for.

Two quick points. Firstly, if you don't want to hear the answer, then don't ask the question. If you aren't prepared for the pain of an honest answer, don't ask.Carol pushed Melvin for the truth and then became angry at him when he tried to be honest with her.

Secondly, do not expect or demand change from your partner. Hope for it by all means, but nagging and threatening does not make a good relationship. Melvin told Carol he was willing to change, and he demonstrated that with baby steps. Towards the end of the film when Melvin is avoiding the cracks and lines on the sidewalk, Carol tells him not to or 'this' (meaning their fledging relationship) is not going to work. Another demand. Another threat. 

Change is inevitable. "Nothing stays the same,"  screams the As I Lay Dying track, 'there is only growth or decay'. In personal relationships acceptance is important - in fact for some people, that is all they want: to be loved for who they are - but where does one draw the line. Where do you draw the line?


  1. I love this movie, I have to say. I've seen it too many times. But I see your point about her needing more than he should be expected to give. However, I do see him change for the better, because he's comfortable around her when he had no place of comfort outside of their relationship, so is it all bad. Drawing the line has to be individual, person by person set, and in this situation, change made them both happy. That's the deciding factor I guess. :)

    1. You're dead right Shah. Every couple has to work this stuff out for themselves and it is usually a case of policy making on the the run, to steal a political phrase.I watched it again a few days after I wrote this post, with my class of adult migrants. I loved it all over again, and they enjoyed it too.