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Scent of a Woman
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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Oscar bait that was caught

Author: Steve Pulaski from United States
25 March 2014

The fact that Martin Brest's Scent of a Woman awarded Al Pacino his first and only Oscar to date is a fact that satisfies and infuriates simultaneously. It's nice to see an immensely talented actor finally get his due from Hollywood, however, it's upsetting to see it's for a film that largely pales in comparison to Pacino's other pictures such as The Godfather trilogy and Scarface and a performance that doesn't hold a candle to the ones he gave in the aforementioned films.

It's bizarre out of the library of terrific Pacino performances we've been so grateful to see over the years, the Academy recognizes one that is good at the same time all over the place and inconsistent, even though it's one of the best inconsistent performances I have yet to see. The film centers around Charlie Simms (Chris O'Donnell), a student at a prestigious New England prep school who is assigned to look after a retired Army Ranger Lieutenant Colonel named Frank Slade (Al Pacino). Frank is a blind man, often loud, frequently outspoken, loves his drinks, and feels completely entitled to speak his mind whenever he feels like it. It is only a screen writing obligation that these two will embark on some life-altering adventures and find ways to open up to each other in ways they never foresaw.

Scent of a Woman's writer Bo Goldman pulls no punches whatsoever, for this is a straight-forward drama about companionship and loss with little to no presence of deeper meaning or multilayered storytelling. Not every film needs to be heavy on symbology or even multilayered, but when a story is a sometimes merciless one-hundred and fifty-three minutes, one hopes that at some point a line is drawn and deeper, rawer human emotions surface or some other facet pops up to reveal another layer.

But sadly there isn't one, and because of that, Scent of a Woman flounders because of how basic it is. We see young Charlie leave a lasting impact on Frank and Frank leave an impact on Charlie, which as cute as it is sometimes, can also be dreadfully boring, especially for such a lengthy amount of time. This is one-hundred and five minutes of material stretched out forty-eight minutes longer and occasionally finds itself going in circles over material and events it has just covered.

When it comes down to the chemistry between Pacino and O'Donnell, it's uniformly solid. Both actors have a believable sense of friendship in the film, especially during scenes like the one at the dinner table, the one when Charlie allows Frank to drive a Ferrari down an unpopulated alleyway, or when Frank sticks up for Charlie in the end of the film. Both men are believable as friends and work well as an on-screen duo.

With that being said, Pacino's performance still finds itself registering all over the place and having issues setting up a clear tone throughout the film. Frank will be calm and collective on some occasions mirroring the likes of mentally unstable on other occasions. Some scenes, Frank will be shouting at the top of his lungs, others, he'll be barely cracking a whisper. This is the performance that won Pacino the Oscar, mind you - not the subtleties he presented as Michael Corleone, not the brash assertiveness he exerted as Tony Montana, but the up-and-down tendencies he brought to the table in Scent of a Woman. While this is by no means a bad performance (and definitely shows its effectiveness by the end, with Frank in the courtroom scene), it still isn't the kind of performance one would see Pacino winning, especially with his already exceptional résumé.

Furthermore, it's worth noting that the presence of Thomas Newman's turgid score that needs to emphasize every emotional instance in the film gets to be insufferable to say the least. Newman's score chimes in and plays precisely the kind of tune you expect to hear during scenes of conflict, happiness, joy, and sorrow with absolutely no subtly whatsoever. Then there's the courtroom scene that concludes the film, which feels extracted from a completely separate film.

When you have a film that already overextends itself in its groggy runtime, presents a performance that is, for the lack of a better term, all over the place, and a score that leaves no ambiguity, Scent of a Woman almost seems down and out accept for the fact that it does present a well-orchestrated human interest story and how companionship is one of the fundamentals to a good life. Regardless of how long, occasionally tiresome, and overblown the film can be, it still possesses a delightful focus on character over plot, which I always admire.

The film comes from Martin Brest, an underrated director known for his action comedies such as the exciting Beverly Hills Cop, the hilarious and too-often enthralling Midnight Run, and the unfairly bashed Gigli, which ostensibly crippled his career (Brest hasn't directed since its release in 2003). Brest's usual investment with character relationships is present but absent this time around are his action set pieces, which provide a nice addition of variety in Brest's short but sweet filmography.

Scent of a Woman reminds me quite a bit of Dead Poets Society for more reasons than it deals with a prep school. Both films have a cloying obviousness to their writing and directing, making their themes completely heavy, and staging their emotional sequences as if they were the most powerful to ever exist. The film works best when it is underplaying its central ideas, focusing on more abstract scenes like the key scene here, which involves Frank on a plane fondly recalling the beautiful qualities of a woman, detailing the scent of her hair, the feel of her lips, the texture of her breasts, etc. It's a beautiful scene - Scent of a Woman needed more of those.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

One of the greatest performances of all time!

Author: mcfcrdfc208 from United Kingdom
7 April 2008

This film is now one of my all time favourites,never before has a film left such a big lump in my throat because of the brilliant and beautiful script,brilliant directing and the sensational and breathtaking acting by Pacino.This for me is pancino's greatest performance ever and one of the best performances off all time beaten only by Robert DE Nero's performance in the deer hunter.Off courses lets not forget the great performance by Chris O'Donnell as school boy Charles which unfortunately will not be remembered simply because pacino's role is so breathtaking and worthy off his Oscar he won,which is proved by his great speech at the end which is 6/7 minutes long and he didn't blink once like blind people and that is a sign off class.

So all in all brilliant & moving film and acting by all.

Grade A 10/10

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Arise...Mr. Pacino...Take a Bow

Author: werefox08 from Australia
9 March 2013

After 7 previous Oscar nominations i suppose The Academy thought it was Al Pacinos turn. (it works---a lot---like that). However, Al did deserve this one for a really great performance in this average movie. After the first 15 minutes ....the rest was VERY predictable. Without the Pacino performance...this would have sunk like a stone. Al stamps his authority over the poor schmuck who has come to "look after" him (he is a blind ex army colonel) for a weekend...and in doing so...makes this movie, a one man show. Oh ..there are tiny sub-plots and some humour here and there, but when Pacino is in frame (90% of the time) we all stand to attention. Al Pacino is one of the truly great movie actors, and i was in awe of him here. I cant remember this guy giving an average performance.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Life is beautiful

Author: kevin shi ( from ShangHai, China
11 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are many people committed suicide in the world every year. That is definitely a very saddening phenomenon. I know everybody has one's misery. If you cannot think through it, I recommend you to watch this movie.

When I watched Al Pacino elegantly dancing with the girl, my eyes were full of tears. That is the most beautiful scene I ever watched. I have to remind you if you have not watched it, Al was blind. I was deeply touched by the scene. Every time I remind of the scene, I feel that I am so lucky to live in the world (though the present world is not so good).

As to the performance, Al is perfect. He absolutely deserved the Oscar award. You cannot imagine he brought us so many unforgettable roles. Just take a few examples here. A cold blood mafia in Godfather, a fearless cop in Heat, a righteous reporter in The insider. Frankly speaking, if I was the Oscar judge, I will award him more little gold men.

I always think that what we can get from a movie is not just entertainment. I really believe that a great movie can change your life. SOAW is just the one. 9/10

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Best movie I have seen for a long while

Author: info-209 from Pretoria, South Africa
20 July 2000

The tango scene is truly memorable. One of my favorite movie scenes of all movies. Al Pacino plays the part excellently and Gabrielle Anwar is spectacular. It is a pity that her part was so minor with regards the rest of the movie.

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8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

What a crappy, boring movie

Author: Nick Damian from Toronto, Ontario
21 August 2009

Wow, it's boring, slow, mundane and uninteresting.

What else is there to say? Maybe it's just me - but I feel that Al Pacino should be pretty much given gangster roles or edgy roles...not roles with preppy kids, trying to explain life to them.

It's overdone monologue which means to protect the dignity of a honour student over some trivial event expands into something so ludicrous that you would think you are watching a serious courtroom drama with something so insanely intense that somebody's life is at stake - while in reality, it's some preppy kid who may or may not have some some idiotic prank.

Big EFFIN deal! Overblown on all counts with nothing to hold it together.

I'm waiting for his return as a gunslinging gangster causing carnage and snorting huge amounts of drugs.

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8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Standard Hollywood Sentiment

Author: bas rutten from Eindhoven, the Netherlands
6 February 2003

In spite of the good acting, especially by Mr. Pacino (has he ever delivered a poor acting job?) I can't possibly say that I found "Scent of a Woman" a good movie. The story isn't bad, and there definitely are some very good moments, but about halfway through the novelty wears off, and what's left is a predictable and somewhat sentimental Hollywood vehicle, in the vein of "A Beautiful Mind" or the "English Patient".

The largest problem is that it's all terribly overdone: the movie keeps stressing and stressing how blind and depressed Al Pacino's character is and how great he used to be, leading to some pretty ridiculous scenes of a blind man driving a car and an quite ludicruous speech in which Al basically says it's OK to lie and cover things up. It's all so exaggerated: they keep stressing why it's supposed to be touching and it just gets annoying. After a while I just waiting for the movie to end: it had made it's point but it kept going on and on and on. I was glad when it was finally over.

** out of *** stars (mainly since it's acted very well).

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Charming and bland

Author: Cristi_Ciopron from CGSM, Soseaua Nationala 49
13 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Heartwarming cheap cinema, an artless remake of an Italian rather merciless comedy, 'Scent …' is standard Hollywood fare, undistinguished as artistry—and immensely charming, rousing, engrossing—yeah, I mean that tango scene, and Pacino in one of his maniacal dispositions.

'Scent …' boasts worthy leftovers from the original script, and a lead doing a role that is, to Gassman's original, what Pacino's villain in 'Dick Tracy' is to Jago—or even to Richard III.

Everything shocking in the Gassman original was tamed, the point of that movie was missed, perhaps deliberately, or failing to interest the American filmmakers, and the Pacino remake's tone is bland; the Gassman movie was fun, the Pacino one is charming and enjoyable, though bland. Masturbation jokes are a trademark of the Italian movies—they are still in 'Maléna'. Nothing left in the American rendering. The Italian original is a bitter comedy, breathtakingly reasonable and grounded, good—sensed, intensely sad, and benefiting from a somewhat better actor—anyway, one from a wholly different acting tradition or school. The Hollywoodian remake is a bit stained by blandness, a certain childishness.

My writing on this site has become somewhat loose and careless—not to mention unduly self—referential—for which there's no better apology than improvement, the restoration of a more impersonal shape, and of a tauter style.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Al Pacino is splendid

Author: Ru Sil
10 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Few characters in cinema history are so well defined, so memorable and fascinating as Col. Frank Slade, miraculously played by Al Pacino. Slade broke my heart, I'm not ashamed to admit it. I hate "three-hankys" and overly sentimental "chick flicks", so I kept avoiding "Scent of a Woman". When I've finally watched it recently, it didn't strike me as a "chick flick" though. Pacino's performance really moved me. He never lets the story slip into cheap sentimentalism, because his character is heart-wrenchingly real.

C. O'Donnel is bland and uninteresting, but that's the way it was meant for his character to be. He's only a catalyst for Slade, a blank book waiting to be written. After all, he's just a 17 year-old.

I love it when Hollywood is sending out a positive, moral message, even if the delivery is flawed. The ending of "Scent of a Woman" kinda spoils the story's realism, but nothing can diminish Pacino's brilliant performance.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Scent of a Woman (1992) - Whoo-Ah! Whoo-Ah!

Author: nickmesafilms ( from United States
8 May 2012

Adapted from the Italian film version from Giovanni Arpino, "Scent of a Woman" tells the story of Chris O'Donnell as a preparatory student, who takes a weekend job, taking care of a blind, medically retired Army officer, portrayed brilliantly by Al Pacino, scoring his first ever Oscar win for Best Actor. Director Martin Brest and screenwriter Bo Goldman has perfectly made a visionary portrait of life, hope, friendship, and honesty. When I first started watching, I immediately realized that this movie was better than I thought it would be. I was drawn into the clever well-written dialogue from Bo Goldman, and the stand-out performances from the entire cast. But the shining cast member is Al Pacino, delivering one of the greatest performances of his career, that rightfully deserves his Best Actor Oscar. Although sadly, this is the only award he has won in his entire career, his award win will finally make others realize how excellent an actor Pacino is. But besides Pacino and O'Donnell, James Rebhorn, Gabrielle Anwar, and a young Philip Seymour Hoffman, round up the supporting cast with some clever, if necessary, performances. Delivered with some powerful sequences, provided with some beautiful directing, wonderful writing, and insanely wonderful music, "Scent of a Woman" is one of the many masterpieces of Al Pacino's career. Although the 157-minute run time seemed to drag a bit, with some scenes that needed to be in the movie or not, that were just sort of stuck, that didn't ruin the movie's true potential, luckily. Since 1992 was considered the year of the woman, "Scent of a Woman" might not have been a movie that was all about women, but it does share a wonderful and beautifully made tale, through the case of an insanely enjoyable motion picture. "Scent of a Woman", in my review, "immensing and groundbreaking, Pacino is brilliant".

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