Analysis of As good as it gets

Summary The movie revolves around the lives of Melvin, Simon, and Carol. Melvin, an unlikable man, terrorizes a dog before engaging in his ritualistic cleaning routine. Simon is reunited with his dog and confronts Melvin about mistreating him. Melvin causes trouble at Carol's restaurant and shows up uninvited to her apartment and demands food. Carol's son is sick, and Melvin follows her and her sick son to the hospital, resulting in combative situations. Melvin seeks help from his psychiatrist but has a breakdown at the restaurant and creates a scene. Simon is struggling financially and dealing with health issues while Verdell pines for Melvin. Carol confronts Melvin about his intentions, and they share an awkward kiss that turns passionate. They are unsure where to go from here.


Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The overall story of the screenplay is engaging and explores the complex relationships between the characters. There are several positive elements, such as the exploration of mental illness through Melvin's character and the growth and development of Carol's character. The interactions between the characters create tension and conflict, which adds depth to the story. However, the screenplay could benefit from a clearer central conflict and stronger character arcs. Some scenes feel repetitive and could be streamlined to maintain momentum. Additionally, the emotional impact of certain scenes could be heightened by focusing on the characters' internal struggles and motivations.
Suggestions: To improve the screenplay, you could consider revising the central conflict to make it more compelling and give the story a clearer direction. Develop stronger character arcs by delving deeper into their motivations and internal struggles. Some scenes could be condensed or removed to maintain pacing and avoid repetition. Focus on enhancing the emotional impact of key moments by exploring the characters' emotional states and the consequences of their actions. Consider refining the dialogue to make it more authentic and character-driven.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Melvin

Melvin is an unlikable and unsettling man with quirks and an aggressive attitude. He struggles with severe OCD tendencies and a fear of emotional attachment. He is erratic and self-centered, often speaking out of turn and displaying little to no social awareness. Despite this, he is capable of showing empathy and care, especially towards Simon's dog, Verdell. Melvin is a gruff and abrasive veteran who is trying to improve himself and connect with those around him.



Simon

Simon is a kind and caring man who deeply loves his dog, Verdell. He is a talented artist but struggles financially and emotionally due to his medical bills and debt. Simon has a traumatic past involving physical abuse and family rejection, and desires acceptance from his parents. He values his connections with friends, including Melvin and Carol.



Carol

Carol is a hardworking single mother who prioritizes her son's well-being above all else. She is caring, empathetic, and protective, but also vulnerable and emotional. She struggles to balance her personal desires with her responsibilities as a caregiver and waitress. Carol is patient and understanding with others but does not tolerate anyone who might threaten her or her son's safety.



Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Melvin Melvin starts off as an unlikable and unsettling character with severe OCD tendencies and a fear of emotional attachment. He struggles to control his actions and emotions, often coming across as abrasive and self-centered. However, as he begins to connect with Simon and care for Verdell, he starts to show a softer side. His love for Carol brings out a rare desire for self-improvement, though his social ineptitude and anxieties cause friction between them. Despite his struggles, Melvin ultimately learns to acknowledge his emotional vulnerabilities and seeks help from a psychiatrist. He tries to make amends with Carol, but it may be too late. The character arc for Melvin is well-established and takes the audience on a journey of self-improvement and emotional growth. However, the progression of his relationship with Carol could have been further developed. It's not entirely clear what draws Melvin to her, and their chemistry is not fully explored. Additionally, some of Melvin's actions and dialogue can come across as insensitive and offensive, making it difficult to fully root for him as a protagonist.
To improve the character arc for Melvin, it would be helpful to further explore his backstory and the origins of his OCD and anxieties. This could add more depth to his character and help the audience understand his struggles on a deeper level. Additionally, more attention could be paid to the development of his relationship with Carol, exploring their chemistry and the reasons why they are drawn to each other. Finally, some of Melvin's abrasive and off-putting dialogue and actions could be toned down to make him a more sympathetic protagonist.
Simon Simon begins as a caring and emotional dog lover who confronts Melvin about his mistreatment of animals. As the story progresses, he becomes a talented artist who hires Vincent as a model, but struggles with Vincent's sexual poses and flirtatious behavior. Simon is scarred both physically and emotionally after an attack and struggles to come to terms with his new appearance and Frank's use of his dog as a model without permission. Despite his financial and emotional struggles, Simon opens up about his past trauma and finds comfort in sharing his experiences with Carol and Melvin. He comes to terms with his relationship with his parents and his feelings for Carol, leading him to make a decision to go back with Melvin and Carol. In the end, Simon is a supportive and insightful friend to Melvin. The character arc for Simon is well developed and consistent throughout the movie. The audience can empathize with his struggles and root for him to find happiness. However, the abrupt confession of love towards Carol feels out of place and rushed. It would have been better if their relationship was given more time to develop before the declaration was made.
To improve Simon's character arc, there could be more scenes showing his struggles with financial and emotional issues. This would make his personal growth more impactful to the audience. Additionally, his romantic feelings towards Carol could be hinted at earlier in the movie, allowing for a more gradual build-up to the confession of love.
Carol Carol starts as a resilient waitress who can handle difficult customers like Melvin, but as she interacts with Dr. Bettes and her son's illness, she becomes more emotional and vulnerable. She struggles with her relationship with Melvin, but ultimately decides to part ways and move on. Throughout the movie, Carol transforms into a strong, independent woman who is in control of her own destiny. The character of Carol is well-developed with a consistent personality and clear motivations. However, her arc could benefit from more external conflict or obstacles to overcome. Many of her struggles are internal, which is important but could be more compelling if there were more tangible challenges for her to face.
To improve Carol's character arc, consider adding external conflicts such as financial struggles or a work-related crisis that she must overcome. This would create more urgency and tension in the story while still allowing Carol's internal struggles to be explored. Additionally, further developing her relationship with Spencer and her romantic interests could add depth to her character.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
Mental IllnessMelvin’s behavior is influenced by his obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety. He has a difficult time communicating with others due to his condition, which causes conflict and tension among characters.The theme of mental illness is a prominent one throughout the film. The screenplay highlights how mental illness can affect an individual’s life, relationships, and personality. Melvin’s condition is depicted as debilitating and challenging for himself and those around him. The theme serves to increase awareness of mental health issues and to encourage empathy for those who struggle with them.
RelationshipsThe screenplay explores different types of relationships, including friendship, romantic relationships, and parent-child relationships. The narrative delves into the complexity, fragility, and strength of these connections.Relationships are a significant theme in the screenplay. The development and evolution of relationships affect the characters' actions, decisions, and emotions. The screenplay highlights how individuals in a relationship negotiate their boundaries, goals, and expectations. Moreover, the theme explores how relationships can have a redemptive and healing quality.
RedemptionMelvin's transformation from a rude and selfish individual to a caring and empathetic one highlights the theme of redemption. Simon's forgiveness towards Melvin, despite their rocky relationship, also demonstrates redemption.The theme of redemption is a profound one in the screenplay. It shows how people can change and grow when presented with challenges and opportunities. The theme emphasizes how individuals' self-reflection and actions can positively impact themselves and the people around them.
EmpathyThe screenplay portrays the importance of empathy in building connections and understanding others. Melvin's character arc involves learning to empathize with those around him, leading to a change in his behavior.Empathy is a critical theme in the screenplay. It highlights the value of understanding others' perspectives and feelings. Characters that demonstrate empathy are depicted as compassionate, caring, and emotionally intelligent. The theme serves to encourage viewers to understand and appreciate others better.
IsolationMelvin's obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety contribute to his sense of isolation. Simon's character is also depicted as isolated due to his physical limitations.The theme of isolation is present in the screenplay. It deals with characters that experience loneliness, disconnection, or a lack of belonging. The screenplay highlights how isolation can lead to mental health issues and hinder individuals' growth and development. The theme aims to raise awareness of the negative impact of social isolation and the importance of social support.



Screenwriting Resources on Themes

Articles

Site Description
Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

YouTube Videos

Title Description
Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
Thematic Mistakes You're Making in Your Script Common Theme mistakes and Philosophical Conflicts
Goals and Philosophical Conflict
internal Goals The protagonist's internal goal is to find a sense of community and connection with others, while Simon's internal goal is to be reunited with his lost dog and to confront Melvin. Melvin's internal goal is to establish control over his surroundings, overcome his OCD, and seek acceptance and connection from others. Carol's internal goal is to explore her sexuality, be a responsible mother, and maintain her composure in the face of Melvin's criticisms. The protagonist's internal goal evolves from seeking power and validation to seeking friendship and belonging.
External Goals The protagonist's external goals include intimidating and harassing Simon, finding Verdell and returning him to Melvin, proving his worth as a model, and finding a new place to live. Simon's external goal is to pay the Handyman and find someone to walk his dog while he is recovering. Melvin's external goals include eating food, interacting with people, seeking help for his OCD, and convincing Carol to stay with him. Carol's external goals include delivering orders, finding out what is wrong with her son, and maintaining her job and financial stability.
Philosophical Conflict The overarching philosophical conflict in the screenplay revolves around the clash of values and beliefs between characters. This includes conflicts between selfishness and kindness, power dynamics and empathy, control and chaos, personal desires and responsibilities, appearance-based judgments and authenticity, cynicism and optimism, and change and stagnation. These conflicts challenge the characters' beliefs and force them to question their behavior and worldview.


Character Development Contribution: The evolving internal goals of the protagonist, Simon, Melvin, and Carol contribute to their character development by showcasing their growth, vulnerabilities, and desires. As their goals evolve, they are forced to confront their fears, challenge their existing beliefs, and seek personal growth and connection. Through their internal journeys, they learn to prioritize empathy, kindness, acceptance, and personal transformation.

Narrative Structure Contribution: The protagonist's internal and external goals, as well as the overarching philosophical conflicts, contribute to the narrative structure by creating tension, conflict, and character development. These elements drive the plot forward and create meaningful interactions and relationships between the characters. The evolving goals and conflicts also provide a sense of progression and development for the protagonist, making the narrative more engaging and compelling.

Thematic Depth Contribution: The protagonist's internal and external goals, as well as the philosophical conflicts, contribute to the thematic depth of the screenplay by exploring themes of loneliness, connection, personal growth, acceptance, and the importance of empathy and kindness. The characters' journeys and interactions highlight the complexities of human relationships, the power of transformation, and the potential for personal redemption. These thematic elements add depth and resonance to the screenplay, elevating it beyond a simple character-driven story.


Screenwriting Resources on Goals and Philosophical Conflict

Articles

Site Description
Creative Screenwriting How Important Is A Character’s Goal?
Studio Binder What is Conflict in a Story? A Quick Reminder of the Purpose of Conflict

YouTube Videos

Title Description
How I Build a Story's Philosophical Conflict How do you build philosophical conflict into your story? Where do you start? And how do you develop it into your characters and their external actions. Today I’m going to break this all down and make it fully clear in this episode.
Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great By Michael Arndt: I put this lecture together in 2006, when I started work at Pixar on Toy Story 3. It looks at how to write an "insanely great" ending, using Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine as examples. 90 minutes
Tips for Writing Effective Character Goals By Jessica Brody (Save the Cat!): Writing character goals is one of the most important jobs of any novelist. But are your character's goals...mushy?