February 2nd, 2011
Molly Lambert on learning to appreciate Jack Nicholson:
I encountered Jack Nicholson onscreen for the first time in 1997, when I saw James L. Brooks' As Good As It Gets. In that film Jack Nicholson plays a character whose entire existence requires the context of "Jack Nicholson" to make any sense. Here is how I saw it: a sad neurotic old man totally undeserving of love gets his wish fulfillment fantasy via a much younger waitress who doesn't really make any sense as a character and Greg Kinnear is gay. I had never been so mystified to see a movie win so many awards. "Man, Hollywood…" I said, shaking my head perplexedly and being fourteen.
I enjoy an intellectual romantic comedy as much as the next English major but I could not get behind that movie. We're all trying for Annie Hall but there's nothing worse than characters that assume your sympathy without really earning it. Woody's heroes are often horrible people but they manage to be sympathetic. Woody's worst movies have many of the same problems as As Good As It Gets. "You make me want to be a better man." What made you so sure you're such a bad man to begin with Jack?
My freshman year of college I saw Carnal Knowledge, a movie which opens (semi-hilariously) with Jack Nicholson as a freshman in college. Suddenly I got Jack Nicholson. I got what As Good As It Gets had assumed I would already know. And I understood that the current Jack Nicholson, the grandfatherly type in sunglasses in the front row of the Oscars, still felt exactly the same inside as this guy I really wanted to fuck. And that was really weird, vaguely creepy, confusing, hot, and the very end of puberty. [...]
(As a bonus feature, the full post includes the most unnerving animated GIF I've seen in a long time. Don't scroll down looking for it, as it's a subtle sort of creepiness and loses impact if you just stare at it. Just read the full post and wait … suddenly, you'll notice something moving out of the corner of your eye.)