Film Review – Scent of a Woman (1992)

Scent of a Woman (1992)

Title – Scent of a Woman (1992)

Director – Martin Brest (Beverly Hills Cop)

Cast – Al Pacino, Chris O’Donnell, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gabrielle Anwar, James Rebhorn

Plot – Student Charlie Simms (O’Donnell) takes on a Thanksgiving weekend job that entails looking after blind and aggressive retired Army veteran Frank Slade (Pacino). This seemingly simple task ends up being anything but as Frank takes Charlie on a trip to New York City that will change their lives forever.

“The day we stop lookin’, Charlie, is the day we die”

Review by Eddie on 4/07/2016

Made famous by the fact it featured a grandstanding Oscar winning Al Pacino performance and the career making turns of future Robin Chris O’Donnell and future Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, Beverly Hills Cop and Midnight Run director Martin Brest’s Scent of a Woman is a film that by today’s standards is a tad too over the top and melodramatic to be highly praised but it’s an at times affecting and emotionally powerful portrait of friendship and finding ones place in the world.

Drawing out a seemingly simple set up of odd couple pair in the form of Pacino’s blind and disgraced former Army Colonel Frank Slade and O’Donnell’s baby faced and non-worldly wise prep school student/makeshift babysitter Charlie Simms going on a life changing weekend trip into a 2 and a half hour meditation on living, loving and tango dancing, Brest struggles to maintain a consistent momentum to the flow of the movie and after a lengthy lead up and a downright cheesy finale, Scent of a Woman stays afloat and becomes something more than it perhaps deserves to be thanks to Pacino and O’Donnell’s intriguing partnering.

In what’s the very incarnation of an award baiting role, Pacino walks the very fine line of parody and an acting masterclass as the cantankerous and feisty Slade and while he walked away with the golden statue at the1993 Oscars it’s hard to say how his performance would be regarded had it come to fruition in today’s climate but one suspects a golden statue would not have fallen in his direction.

It’s a committed performance by Pacino but his over reliance on yelling of the phrase “hoo-wah” is nicely counteracted by O’Donnell’s dialled down (sometimes too much so) turn as the well-meaning Charlie. Between the two actors they find a nice middle ground and make the hard to believe central premise of Scent work despite the fact it’s never far away from being purely fanciful in terms of character decisions and the aforementioned over staged finale involving a college court of law.

For all committed Pacino fans Scent of a Woman is must watch as it features the actors most flashy performance outside of Scarface and acts as a reminder as to just how dominate the now sporadically entertaining actor could be as well as a showcase for O’Donnell, who just never quite went on with the talent he showed in his early career.

As for director Martin Brest whose career story is now Hollywood lore, Scent of a Woman marked the last noteworthy entry into the filmmaker’s short filmography that was put to a swift and sad end by the one two double pronged attack of cinematic stinkers Meet Joe Black and notorious movie crime that was the 2003 Bennifer led Gigli.

3 ½ intense tango’s out of 5

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10 responses to “Film Review – Scent of a Woman (1992)

  1. I always considered this one of Pacinos best performances but I think you’re right about it feeling too over-acted and hammy compared to what is considered a good performance today.

    • Yeh it would’ve been interesting to judge it on its merits at the time of release mate but as I watched it this year I couldn’t help but feel it was just slightly overbaked ha.
      E

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