As Good as it Gets
1. A summary of what happens in the movie
The movie centers on the life of an obsessive-compulsive and misanthropic writer Melvin Udall (played by Jack Nicholson). One of Udall’s compulsion is to have his breakfast wherein there is only one waitress he’ll ever accept to serve him, Carol Connelly who happens to be a single mom. But when Carol stopped from going to work because of her son’s illness, Udall took pains to think of ways to help Carol treat her son’s illness. At first, Udall thinks that he does all this for selfish reasons, so that he can go back to his routine of eating breakfast daily at the café where Carol serves him. However, he soon realizes that he is doing all this because he is in love with Carol.
Udall has a hard time expressing himself to people. However, as the movie progresses, he slowly learns to express himself first to a dog whom his gay neighbor Simon entrusted to him when he got beaten by a bunch of teenage thieves. When Simon’s friend asked Udall to take his friend to a vacation, Udall eventually agrees after a little discussion and then asked Carol to accompany him. Carol finally agrees. This vacation has finally taught Udall to express himself and slowly overcome his obsessive-compulsive disorder.
2. What is the psychological disorder or problem addressed in the movie?
Melvin Udall suffers from an obsessive-compulsive disorder. The routines Udall cannot go on without are locking the door when he enters, switching the lights on and off for 4 or 5 times, and eating his breakfast daily at a café where the waitress he only ever accepts is Carol.
3. Does the person seek therapy? If so, what kind of therapy did the person seek? Was this appropriate? (Use your knowledge about disorders and treatment to explain why or why not) Tell me what you think the goals of the therapy should have been and how the therapist should have addressed the psychological issues. If there is an ethical problem that you see, you should discuss this, too.
Udall finds out his disorder from his own psychiatrist and asked him to provide him with the therapy at the very hour he found out of his disorder. However, the psychiatrist did not consent to give him the therapy at that very hour but prescribed him pills which he must take once a day. The movie did not specify what kind of therapy or pills Udall sought, only that he was given a certain prescription of pills. However, the treatment he receives was not provided to him from his psychiatrist but by a neighbor’s friend. When he agrees to this person to accompany Simon in a vacation, he learns to fall in love which in turn helped him overcome his obsession. At the end of the movie, he finally forgets his routines (he notices he forgot to lock the door) and finally learns to walk over road cracks. However the way Udall was cured from this disorder is highly unlikely to happen in real life. Obsessive-compulsive disorder cannot be easily cured just like that. But today there are treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder such as the deep brain simulation. In this treatment, a small portion of the patient’s brain is being destroyed through radio-frequency current coming from fine wire electrodes temporarily inserted into the brain (Gray).
4. Linking the behaviors of the characters to pest characters in the book, what coping mechanisms or defense mechanisms do the characters use (knowledge of personality)? How is the behavior relevant to the study of psychology?
Due to this disorder, Udall has a hard time communicating with other people. This is his mechanism to bar other people from discovering his disorder. During first conversations, Udall never fails to impart a sarcastic criticism to the person he is talking, too. However, to compensate for his difficulty in expressing himself personally to other people, he writes love stories. In fact, he is an accomplished writer.
5. What did you learn from this movie? How could what you learned be applied to everyday life?
The movie teaches viewers how the power of friendship can help to overcome certain ailments. Udall, by the end of the movie, won the friendship of Simon and Carol (and also her love) because they discover that beneath his rough approach to people, this very same man has helped them overcome their troubles. Friends help us cope with almost all the problems we’ll ever have.
6. What would be the therapeutic purpose of watching this movie?
Watching this movie gives the viewers the feeling that whatever problems we may have and however big these problems might be, we can overcome this with the help of true friends who help us no matter who we are and what we’ve gone through.
7. What would be some anticipated outcomes of watching this movie? How could this benefit the viewer? What changes might people make as a result of viewing this movie?
At first glance, you could say with certainty that he and Simon’s dog will learn to like each other, Simon will eventually become his friend and that he and Carol will soon fall in love with each other. After watching the movie, people will who have seen such kinds of person as Udall, hard to approach and certainly difficult to talk to, will think twice before judging these kinds of persons.
8. Relating this to what you’ve been learning psychology, what questions do you have after watching this movie? List at least 3 questions.
After watching the movie, however, there certain issues that I think were not resolved. What specifically is Udall’s treatment other than taking those pills? Why didn’t he tell Simon and Carol that he has an obsessive-compulsive disorder? How can he forget his routines that easily just because he is panicking with the thought of Carol?
As Good as It Gets. 1997.
Gray, Peter O. Psychology. 5th ed. Boston: Boston College, 2007.