Four years after crime/comedy Midnight Run, producer/director Martin Brest returns with Scent of a Woman a fine coming of age, life affirming remake of Dino Risi’s “Profumo di donna”, which is well adapted by Oscar winning screenwriter William Goldman.
Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell) is a high school student who attends the prestigious Baird school with aspirations to go to Harvard. Coming from a lower class background (he won a scholarship which pays for his tuition), Charlie decides not to go home for thanksgiving and instead accepts a job taking care of retired Navy Lt. Col. Frank Slade (Al Pacino), a cranky, blind, middle aged man whose hot temper makes it almost impossible to get along with.
Unknowing to all, Col. Slade has already planned to spend the weekend in New York City where he will stay in a first class hotel, eat a meal in a high class restaurant, visit his estranged older brother and make love to a beautiful woman all before taking his own life. Charlie begrudgingly accepts Col. Slade’s request to join him, while dreading the consequences of his refusal to name the culprits of a prank made on his high school principal.
The films main feature is the excellent, hypnotic performance by Al Pacino. A charismatic war horse who loves to tell antidotes about his time under former President Lyndon Johnson, loves to drink (he affectionately re-names Jack Daniels to John Daniels) and adores women, Pacino eats up this meaty role with much vigour and gusto, finally snagging an Academy Award in the process. He plays a blind man exceptionally well, and the way he chews up and spits out Goldman’s hefty dialogue is simply dazzling. In short, it is one of his best performances.
Chris O’Donnell can be forgiven if his performance is dwarfed by Pacino’s robust acting exhibition. He gives a good performance as the poor boy surrounded by spoiled brats and plays the awkward teenager very well. Sometimes a little to well, as there were times I just wanted to reach into the TV and shake him out of his stupor.
What seems to go against this film is that when Pacino is not on the screen it is very dull watch. O’Donnell is just not interesting enough on his own. He contemplates Pacino very well, but when he is solo the movie drags on at a very slow pace.
There are many memorable moments to be found, with first and foremost the tango scene between Pacino and the stunning Gabrielle Anwar. Pacino’s blind Colonel driving a Ferrari is another highlight, as is his inspirational speech near the end of the film which although corny, is very affective and delivered well by Pacino.