Scent of a Woman

It comes as an honest surprise to realize that an actor as talented as Al Pacino has won just one Oscar. However, whatever the judging committee at the Academy Awards have against Pacino, they could hold no grudge against the legend, awarding him a lone and elusive Oscar for the Martin Brest directed Scent of a Woman.

Al PACINO License  Some rights reserved by detengase

Some rights reserved by detengase

Liberally sprinkled with profanity and showcasing some of the best acting skills of Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman is a refreshingly moving tale of a preparatory school boy’s journey into the adult world, alongside a handicapped man’s journey to the quest of desire to live.

The movie opens on a somewhat dulling note with Charlie Simms [Chris O’Donnel] and friend George Willis Jr. [Philip Seymour]–both students at an exclusive preparatory school in New England–getting privy at school managing a prank on the headmaster Mr Trask [James Rebhorn].

Charlie longs for a trip home to Oregon during Christmas break and being poor has to find a job during Thanksgiving weekend to pay the fare. He opts to look after a retired military man, Frank Slade [Al Pacino]. Oscillating between acceptance of the bait of Trask recommending him to join Harvard if he tells the names of pranksters or face expulsion if at the behest of his conscience he doesn’t, Charlie is in for a shock at his week-end job for Slade, his charge, is not only blind, but alcoholic and highly ill-tempered.

Slade springs a surprise by telling Charlie to accompany him to New York City for Slade wants to travel in chauffeur driven limousine, wallow in luxurious accommodation, have wine, meet women and then, commit suicide!

Charlie, not yet believing in the enormity of Slade’s wish, has also to be with him when Slade pays an uninvited visit to his brother’s house at Thanksgiving dinner, a visit that ends in bitterness.

While returning to New York, Charlie confides in Slade the incident back at school and the offer of Harvard, an opportunity Slade advises not to miss. Charlie however remains in doldrums.

But it is an Al Pacino film and he doesn’t disappoint us with one of his best performances. It is a real thrill to watch a blind Slade dance a tango at the restaurant when he ‘senses’ the presence of Donna [Gabrielle Anwar], a young girl awaiting her date, or, when goaded by Charlie, who is intent to dispel the foreboding clouds the morning after, Slade agrees to test drive a Ferrari making the audience sit on the edge as he speeds across the area and later smooth talks a policeman to ward off a fine. Or when Slade and young Charlie struggle to avoid getting hit with the loaded gun which Slade had falsely promised he had emptied.

The crowning glory of the film, however, remains the scintillating speech that Slade delivers when he comes as a surprise visitor to help Charlie at the school. His words not only silence Trask, but move the school’s Disciplinary Committee to withdraw the expulsion order just announced by Trask against Charlie. The grand speech suffices to make the audience forgive the avoidable length of certain scenes. The film ends on a note of hope for the blind Slade, the possibility of romance blossoming between Christine Dowens [Frances Conroy], one of the teachers at the school and member of the Disciplinary Committee as Slade enters his house and greets the young children of his niece.

Scent of a Woman showcases Pacino at his best.

Rating 3.5/5

Pubic Relations Strategist, Movie Critic and Freelance Contributor at local Sydney Media Outlets and Sydney Editor at Student View.

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