I’ve been watching your work since I was 6. Not your films, but The Simpsons. Of course, it wasn’t until much later on that I was able to finally put it all together. When I realized that you, the writer-director of the classic film As Good as it Gets also had a hand in The Simpsons— well, let’s just say that I was mightily impressed.
Your films are impressive. I think that is the only way to say it. You’ve only directed 6, and I must admit that I have not seen Broadcast News or I’ll Do Anything. Even still, I feel like I have seen enough of your work to comment somewhat intelligently on it. In the 4 films of yours that I have seen, what seems to be the unifying element is the overall emotional tone of each film. Somehow, you are able to stride a fine line between drama and comedy. Your integration of the two emotional tones is seamless in a way that I have yet to see any other filmmaker achieve. What that emotional intersection of drama and comedy really breaks down to is the emotional character of real life. Your films are some of the closest to real life that I have ever seen. While I can never say that I have been in any of the scenarios of the protagonists, nor would I say I know anyone particularly similar to the main characters, when I am watching one of your films, I always feel that I could. I could walk out of my house and run into someone with a story to tell like the ones I have spent hours exploring in your films.
Let’s talk As Good as it Gets First. I am currently enrolled in an MFA program for Sound Design, so I’d like to spend a little time on the sound of one scene in particular. Melvin has finally been seated at his habitual table in the restaurant. Carol comes over to take his order. Things are going passably well until Melvin makes an inappropriate comment about Carol’s ill son. I didn’t notice this the first time I saw the film, or the second; I had to be sitting in my screenwriting class and have the instructor point it out to me, but, after Melvin makes his comment, all of the background sound of the restaurant is subtly mixed down until all the audience hears is the now incredibly tense conversation between Melvin and Carol. What a fabulous choice to make! If I recall, the framing of that particular sequence also became progressively closer and closer. It was such a revelation to see sound help to focus the image even closer during an incredibly intimate moment of the film. I’ve always wondered, since you both wrote and directed that film, at what stage that decision was made. Was it written in at the post level, or was it the result of a collaboration between you and your sound designer?
Another favorite of my family’s is Spanglish. I remember we first saw this film in theaters, bought it when it came out on DVD, and have watched it practically every year since. While I am usually not a huge fan of voice-overs, the writing in this film is wonderful, and I think that the voice over is a very necessary and appropriate choice. The narrative framework is simple: a girl recounting a pivotal time of her life in the guise of a college application essay. I had to write one of these essays (although the hero that I chose to write about was Charlie Chaplin, not my mother). This film has always been easy for me to relate to, and I find more and more within it each time I watch it.
The final thing I want to say to you, and really thank you for, is the prevalence of female perspectives within your films. I don’t mind watching a movie with a male protagonist in the slightest, but sometimes it’s quite nice to watch something different. Your films hearken back to another time in Hollywood when it was more commonplace to see a female main character. I always find your women to be very believable; you must have some great ladies in your life.
I look forward to another one of your films. You are one of Hollywood’s greatest auteurs, and I hope generation after generation of movie-watchers are able to see your films. They are timeless.