'90s Movie Month: "Scent of a Woman" Review
on 2013-08-05 15:30
90s Movie Month: "Scent of a Woman" Review
-- Rating: R
Length: 157 minutes
Release Date: December 23, 1992
Directed by: Martin Brest
"Scent of a Woman" tells the story of the relationship between a young prep school student and an aging ex-military man. Released in 1992, the film was critically acclaimed and earned more than $135 million globally.
Charlie Simms (Chris O'Donnell), who attends an elite prep school in New England despite his middle-class roots, looks for a part-time job to earn money so he can return home to Oregon for the Christmas holidays. He accepts a temporary job over the Thanksgiving weekend looking after a blind, alcoholic, retired officer, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (Al Pacino).
Before he can start the job, he runs into some trouble at the school. Charlie and classmate George Willis (Philip Seymour Hoffman) witness some other students pranking the school's headmaster, Mr. Trask (James Rebhorn). Trask tries to get the pair to release the names of the students, even going so far as to offer a letter of recommendation that would pretty much guarantee them a spot at Harvard. Charlie isn't sure what to do.
He heads off for what he believes is a weekend of looking after an old man, but Slade whisks them to the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Not long after arriving, he reveals the true purpose of the weekend—Slade plans to commit suicide.
They make an unexpected visit to the home of Slade's brother, where they join the family for Thanksgiving dinner. The day doesn't end well, since Slade seems to enjoy pressing everyone's buttons. On their way back to the city, Charlie tells Slade about the dilemma he is facing at his school. Slade responds by telling Charlie to spill the beans on his classmates and take the recommendation letter.
Charlie and Slade continue with their weekend. They meet a young woman in a restaurant, Donna (Gabrielle Anwar), who dances the tango with Slade. They rent a Ferrari, which the blind Slade drives until stopped by the police. Back at the hotel, Slade sends Charlie out on an errand. He returns to find Slade dressed in full military attire with a gun in his hand, and he knows what is about to happen. After a heated argument, Slade gives up his idea of committing suicide, and the two leave New York City to return home.
Back at school, Charlie and his buddy, George, face a formal inquiry in front of the rest of the school, where Trask pressures them to give up the names of the parties responsible for the prank or face expulsion. Slade shows up to defend Charlie. After an impassioned speech where Slade tells Trask that Charlie's decision should be respected and not punished, the inquiry board excuses Charlie from the proceedings without punishment, bringing cheers from his classmates.
In this film, Al Pacino and Chris O'Donnell work well together. Pacino's roughness and depth of character plays well off of O'Donnell's smoothness and polish. Pacino started his acting career in 1968 with an appearance on the television series "N.Y.P.D.," and only four years later played the role of Michael Corleone in "The Godfather." That was not only his breakout role, but also the role that cemented Pacino as one of the best male actors of his generation.
Chris O'Donnell got his role in "Scent of a Woman" very early in his acting career. His first acting job was a bit part in the 1986 television series "Jack and Mike," a mere six years before landing the role of Charlie Simms. O'Donnell went on to play Buddy Threadgoode in the 1991 hit "Fried Green Tomatoes," D'Artagnan in "The Three Musketeers," and Robin in the "Batman" franchise.
Al Pacino won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Lieutenant Colonel Slade, and the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture. "Scent of a Woman" won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture in the Drama category and Best Screenplay. Al Pacino also won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture in the Drama category.
"Scent of a Woman" quickly became a cult classic based mainly on Pacino's stellar performance and his character's irascible personality. Lines from the movie still resonate today in American culture, including Al Pacino's "hoo-ah" and "Out of order? I'll show you out of order." This movie is a must-see, both for the story and the performances of the lead actors.
Rating: 4 out of 5