Scent of a Woman (1992)
Directed/produced by Martin Brest and penned by Bo Goldman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Melvin and Howard), Scent of a Woman is written and constructed to manipulate you utilizing a flashy Al Pacino at the top of his game. This is a showy film, but showiness can be effective and fun when coupled with this level of showmanship. Pacino’s character Frank Slade is a retired high-ranking military officer whose loss of sight from an accident has left him bitter, disillusioned and suicidal. He hires young prep school student Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell) as his assistant for an extravagant trip to New York, where they get the chance to deconstruct each other’s highly disparate problems. Youthful openness meets worldly indifference, and Brest is romantic enough to believe that his two main characters can better each other. In a close to career-best performance, Al Pacino isn’t all about mimicry, even though his character at times seems to be. There’s a lot more beneath Frank Slade’s surface; a well of contradicting emotions and bottled-up frustration that seeps up in small portions when Charlie’s sensitivity and obvious loyalty eventually gets under Frank’s skin. It all culminates in an unabashed climax which we’ve been longing for, starving for through two-and-a-half hours of expertly dictated chagrin.