Monday, January 24, 2005

Scent of a Woman

A Movie Review by Zinta Aistars

* Starring: Al Pacino, Chris O'Donnell
* Director: Martin Brest
* Format: Color, Closed-captioned, Dolby, NTSC
* Rated: R Not for sale to persons under age 18.
* Studio: Universal Studios
* Video Release Date: July 23, 1993
* $9.98

To what vinegar and bile a man's heart turns when he travels through his life without love. As sweet as the scent of a woman, it is the woman beneath the scent the retired Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, played by Al Pacino, has longed for all his life, and this is the final message of this remarkable film. Tough as nails, the blind military man rankles and spits and curses, making it impossible for the young college man, Charlie, played by Chris O'Donnell, to get along with him, let alone be weekend companion to him. Who, then, is the tougher one? Do as he might, Slade cannot rid himself of the college boy watching over his safety in an impromptu visit to New York City. Comes a time, he no longer wishes to; it is the boy who outlasts him in steely determination.

Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade has given up on life. He has lost his military career, once promising. He has lost his sight through machismo pranks of tossing grenades. He has lost the affection and support of his family through his impossible manner, save a daughter who loves him through clenched teeth. He has never been able to hold onto a woman, except for a woman's paid services. For his pleasure, indeed, he has only ever had the scent of a woman. The woman herself, her body purchased, her heart and spirit forever elusive to the man, requires far more courage to hold than that what is required in the escort services Slade relies upon. But Slade's courage is limited to military and machismo realms; he has none when it comes to the challenge of emotional courage.

To his young and idealistic companion Charlie, everything Slade is not, or perhaps was, but long ago, Slade says in a critical moment: when in my life I have done the right thing, I did it to feel important. You do it because you are a man of integrity. Charlie tells Slade, you are not a bad man. You are hiding behind your fear.

The impossible becomes possible when Charlie's idealism wins over Slade's moment of despair. Something heroic resides in Slade after all. When Charlie must make a difficult choice that involves a harsh test of his personal honor, Slade comes to his side. The resulting speech alone is worth the price of this film.

Once Slade allows his integrity (and, yes, it was in him, beneath the fear) to surface, the scent of the woman at long last embodies the woman herself. A breakthrough always has that kind of dominoe effect, even in reality.

Pacino's performance in this film is exemplary. O'Donnell, too, is first class, convincing in his portrayal of youth in all its bumbling innocence, as yet uncorrupted ideals.


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