Verdell lies just inside the front door, whimpering for Melvin. Jackie sits across from Simon’s wheelchair. She has some index cards in her lap which she occasionally consults and shuffles.
JACKIE: I feel terribly that I have to…Simon? Forget about the dog for a second.
SIMON: Sorry. What are those cards?
JACKIE (embarrassed): Frank’s idea. He thought I should have notes so I did this right…maintained focus, didn’t get emotional and tried not to terrify you.
SIMON (scared): Terrify me?
JACKIE: See, he’s right. I need the cards. (reading from card) Simon, you’re broke.
As their conversation continues, the dog is distressed.
JACKIE (reading): The medical bills are 61 thousand now. I’ve spoken to your parents and they didn’t hang up or anything – they just said they would feel strange calling you.
SIMON: Well, I can’t call them.
Verdell walks out on the terrace and looks off. He turns for:
SIMON (to Verdell): Here, baby…what is it, Verdell? You miss the tough guy… (imitating Melvin) Well here I am, you little pissant mop, happy to see me? How about another ride down the chute? (back to normal) Oh, God…I didn’t mean it, sweetheart… (on Jackie’s look) I’m sorry. I know…
JACKIE: Frank loves you. You know that…but I’ve spoken to him and he feels that – (reading from card) – as a businessman, with limited resources…
SIMON: I’ll be able to keep my apartment and studio, won’t I? Just tell me.
As Jackie looks at him, then thumbs for a card
SIMON (overwhelmed): Wow…
He reaches out a hand to pet Verdell and the dog ducks away.
— As Good As It Gets (1997), screenplay by Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks
The Daily Dialogue theme for the week is delivering bad news. Today’s suggestion by Samantha Tucker-Boyer.
Trivia: In Ironweed (1987), made ten years before his film, Jack Nicholson tells Meryl Streep, “By God, Helen, that’s as good as it gets,” after her character sings the song, “He’s Me Pal,” in his honor.
Dialogue On Dialogue: Commentary from Samantha: “I love how the dialogue in this scene. Both characters speak in incomplete sentences and Simon is constantly distracted by his dog – it just feels real and natural to me. I also love that Jackie (a minor character) is more stressed than Simon for much of the scene. You watch her struggle to keep her cool (which adds comedy to the scene), and Simon struggle to win Verdell’s affection…and you also see Simon hit rock bottom – not only is he broke, he’s losing his apartment and his studio…even his dog doesn’t love him anymore. There’s so much going on in such a short scene, and so much is conveyed without being said.
As Good As It Gets is one of my favorite movies, and still stands out to me for its memorable dialogue and characters.”