Sunday 21 August 2005

Scent of a Woman (1992) - ickleReview (video from TV)

Al Pacino shines as a blind ex-Army Lieutenant Colonel who's a right ol' bastard. Chris O'Donnell is Charlie Simms, a prep school scholarship student from Oregon who chaperones the Colonel on a Thanksgiving weekend jaunt to Manhattan, where the Colonel splashes out on a suite at the Waldorf Astoria, dinner at the Oak Room, high class prostitutes and tailor-made suits - living it up before he plans to blow his brains out. Charlie carries the weight of the word upon his shoulders having witnessed some misbehaviour back at school but refusing to name the culprits, thereby keeping his honour among the rich kids but jeopardizing his chances of going to Harvard.

This film is so bursting with schmalz that Al Pacino has to carry the weight of the whole film upon his shoulders. But, being Pacino, he pulls it off - and indeed won a Best Actor Oscar for it (not that that means anything). Of course it was an Academy Award vehicle with the rest of the acting so hammy and stilted you could almost smell, nay taste, not the scent of a woman, but the stench of bacon fat-soaked cardboard. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the spoilt rich kid who won't squeal but then gets his powerful daddy to help him out of a jam. James Rebhorn turns out his conventional authority-figure character acting as headmaster Mr Trask, the victim of the practical joke that causes so much trouble for Charlie.

The scenes are long and drawn-out, like unbreakable Cheestrings®, making the film feel calorie-heavy at 157 minutes; but most of them feature Pacino and his honeysuckle bonecrunching voice, so it's good to loaf, if you like the taste. The title comes from the Colonel's ability to guess a woman's name, appearance and personality by the perfume she is wearing. He's a real womanizer, but has great charm and charisma; unlike preppy O'Donnell, so stiff he'd never be short of work as a bookend. There's a muddied moral pickle at the end, set up for a great speech by Pacino (but not quite at the standard of his half-time pep-talk in Any Given Sunday).

Nugget: thick tosh, but a glut of Pacino. A little heavy on the cheese.

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