Good As It Gets (1997)
by James J. Brooks. Story by Mark Andrus.
INT. APARTMENT BUILDING (NEW YORK), HALLWAY - NIGHT
ANGLE ON apartment doorway. As it opens and an
enormously SWEET-FACED, ELDER WOMAN steps out, bungled up
against the cold -- turning back to call inside to the
unseen love of her long life.
I'm just going to get some
flowers, dear. I'll be back in
twenty minutes. It's tulip season
today. I'm so happy.
And now she turns and faces the hallway... her sweetness
dissolves in a flash... replaced by repulsion and that
quickly she has reversed herself and re-entered her
apartment... closing the door as we consider her vacated.
POV - MELVIN UDALL
in the hallway... Well past 50... unliked, unloved,
unsettling. A huge pain in the ass to everyone he's ever
met. Right now all his considerable talent and strength
is totally focused on seducing a tiny dog into the
elevator door he holds open.
Come here, sweetheart... come on.
Sniffing at a particular spot on the hall carpeting.
Melvin lets the elevator door close and advances on the
mutt who has ignores him.
Wanna go for a ride? Okay,
The dog lifts his leg at the precise moment Melvin lunges
and picks him up with a decisive heft -- so that dog
urine squirts the hall wall for a second or two. The DOG
sensing a kindred spirit starts to GROWL and BARK.
(a malevolent tone)
You've pissed your last floor, you
The dog takes a snap at Melvin, but the man is much
meaner and quicker than the dog -- he holds his snout
shut with his hand and reaches for the door of the
I'll bet you wish you were some
sort of real dog now, huh? Don't
worry... this is New York. If you
can make it here, you can make it
anywhere, you know? You ugly,
And with that, he stuffs him in the garbage chute and
lets go. We hear a FADING SERIES of PLEADING "ANOOOOS"
from the DOG fade to nothingness... as another apartment
door opens emitting the loud sounds of a PARTY and SIMON
NYE, early 30s. Simon has been born and raised with
Gothic horror and it's strange that what that stew of
trauma has produced is a gifted, decent man.
INT. APARTMENT BUILDING (NEW YORK), HALLWAY - NIGHT
Frantic... he bolts into the hall... Melvin is just about
to enter his apartment.
Verdell!?!! Here, good doggie...
He notices Melvin at the far end of the hall.
Mr. Udall... excuse me. Hey
(as Melvin turns)
Have you seen Verdell?
What's he look like?
Melvin starts to walk back to his apartment door which is
directly opposite Simon's.
My dog... you know... I mean my
little dog with the adorable
face... Don't you know what my dog
I got it. You're talking about
your dog. I thought that was the
name of the colored man I've been
seeing in the hall.
Simon looks O.S. -- and sees his black friend.
Which color was that?
Like thick molasses, with one of
those wide noses perfect for
smelling trouble and prison
Simon has had it.
Frank Sachs -- Melvin Udall.
(not missing a beat)
How're you doing?
Franks shows my work, Mr. Udall. I
think you know that.
Simon, you've got to get dressed.
What I know is that as long as you
keep your work zipped up around
me, I don't give a fuck what or
where you shove your show. Are we
being neighbors for now?
Do you still think I was
FRANK can only smile.
Definitely a package you don't
want to open or touch.
Hope you find him. I love that
Simon, terminally non-confrontational, still finds
himself compelled to turn back toward Melvin.
You don't love anything, Mr.
Simon closes his door leaving Melvin alone in the
I love throwing your dog down the
INT. MELVIN'S APARTMENT, BATHROOM - NIGHT
Melvin locks and unlocks and locks his door, counting to
five with each lock. He turns the lights quickly on and
off and on five times and makes a straight-line towards
his bathroom where he turns on the hot water and opens
the medicine chest.
INT. MEDICINE CHEST
Scores of neatly stacked Neutrogena soaps. He unwraps
one -- begins to wash -- discards it -- goes through the
process two more times.
INT. SIMON'S APARTMENT, ENTRANCE HALL - NIGHT
A group of PARTY GOERS enters -- followed by a HANDYMAN
holding Verdell who looks and finds:
who looks up -- lights up -- and tears up as he moves
quickly toward the group and his dog.
Thank the good Lord... wow... my
honey... where have you been?
(thinking the greeting's
He always liked me.
As Simon goes past him to take the dog from the
Handyman... JACKIE, Frank's junior partner, barking a
laugh at the Party Goer -- VERDELL BARKING some love. As
the others greet Simon, Jackie directs the group inside.
Jackie lingers, looking on affectionately as Simon picks
some awful, sticky gunk from the dog's body... he puts
Verdell down to reach for his wallet -- the tiny DOG YAPS
Just for a second, okay?
The DOG YAPS "no." Simon, delighted, picks him up again.
(kissing him on the mouth)
Look at him... where was little
In the basement garbage bin eating
Simon reacts -- then notices the Handyman, tongue in
cheek, trying to suppress his amusement.
Go ahead, John, you earned your fun.
(looking at Verdell)
How did he get down in the
basement? I mean even if he got
on the elevator how... ?
Maybe some nice neighbor shoved
him down the garbage chute.
My God! No!
He stares out... Frank frustrated following.
INT. MELVIN'S APARTMENT - OFFICE - NIGHT
Quiet -- safe -- just Melvin's voice reading aloud as he
'Somewhat in the dark, she had
confessed and he had forgiven.
This is what you live for, he
said. Two heads on a pillow where
there is only the safety of being
with each other. How, she
wondered, could she find such hope
in the most shameful part of her.'
He barely reacts as we hear a LOUD KNOCKING at he reads.
But Melvin's into it. His fingers flying as he reads.
'At last she was able to define
love. Love was... '
Mr. Udall, I'd like to talk to you
'Love was... '
He almost has the rest of the sentence -- the meaning of
love -- but the knocking throws him.
He burst from his chair.
INT. APARTMENT BUILDING (NEW YORK) - HALLWAY - NIGHT
As Simon hears MELVIN through the door and takes a step
back. Melvin throws open the door. He looks demonic.
(loud and angry)
Maybe this can wait.
Frank signals encouragement as Melvin opens the door.
I found Verdell, Mr. Udall.
Well, that's a load off.
Melvin walks back into the apartment and is about to
close the door when Simon has another burst of bravery.
Did you... do something to him?
Do you realize that I work at
No, I didn't.
Do you like to be interrupt when
you are danging around in your
No... actually, I even shut the
phone off and put a little piece
of cardboard in the ringer so no
one can just buzz me from d...
Well, I work all the time. So
never, never again interrupt me.
Okay? I mean, never. Not 30
years from now... not if there's
fire. Not even if you hear a thud
from inside my home and a week
later there's a smell from in
there that can only come from a
decaying body and you have to hold
a hanky against your face because
the stench is so thick you think
you're going to faint even then
don't come knocking or, if it's
election night and you're excited
and want to celebrate because some
fudge-packer you dated has been
elected the first queer President
of the United States... and he's
going to put you up in Camp David
and you just want to share the
moment with someone... don't knock
... not on this door. Not for
anything. Got me. Sweetheart?
Yes. It's not a subtle point
Melvin enters his apartment and slams the door shut.
So the theory of confrontations is
that now he'll think twice before
messing with me?
Frank smiles affectionately. Simon turns serious.
He's genuinely upsetting, isn't
Won't worry about it. You go
Frank waits till Simon EXITS SCENE and then knocks loudly
on Melvin's door. There is a sharp change in his demeanor.
Oh, I'm pissed!! Now I am really
Frank waits patiently as Melvin jerks his door back open.
Frank immediately grabs Melvin by his shirt and jerks him
forward... Melvin is scared. Operating on survival mode.
No touch. No touch. No touch.
You may think you can intimidate
the whole world with your
attitude, but I grew up in Hell.
My grandmother had more attitude.
You don't intimidate me.
Police! Police! Fucking crooked
police... doughnut-munching morons
Assault and battery and you're
Shhhh now. I like Simon. I like
him enough to batter you
unrecognizable if you verbally
abuse him or so much as touch his
dog again. Meanwhile, I'll try
and think how you can make this up
I hate doing this. I'm an art
Have a nice day. Party!
He tosses Melvin back and walks out. Melvin straightens
his shirt as he steps out into the hall. Frank smiles as
he re-enters the other apartment. Melvin appears
EXT. NEW YORK CITY STREET NEAR CAROL'S RESTAURANT - DAY
A crowded and dirty street and here comes Melvin. His
walk is brisk -- an animal wanting to pass through the
danger without giving off the scent of its mounting fear.
At times he places his palms together and extends his
arms cutting a path through people. We will be very
pointed in the fact that he avoids stepping on cracks.
CLOSER ON MELVIN
His eyes focused on the terrain.
INT. CAROL'S RESTAURANT - DAY
ANGLE ON WAITRESS
CAROL CONNELLY talks with another MOTHER -- a customer.
You would not guess it, but her working hours tend to be
the most carefree time of the day. She is telling a
story about her son for the umpteenth time.
(to the Mother's
Look at you, you're all better.
It's that new medication.
You know all my son's stuff,
The Mother nods too sympathetically that she does, but
Carol interrupts her.
No, no, no, I got a date tonight.
I'm walking out the door this
morning and he says to me, 'Mom,
I promise not to get one of my
fevers or coughs during your
Isn't that sweet.
Little blonde angle.
Melvin enters and moves past several empty tables to a
table towards the back and is obviously surprised to find
a MAN and WOMAN sitting at the table.
It just came out of me. I said
you love me the way a remote
control loves a TV. As long as I
switch every time...
HER MALE COMPANION
People who talk in metaphors can
shampoo my crotch.
(on their look)
They turn away -- Melvin walks a few paces to the
waitress station where two waitresses, LISA and CAROL,
Pay me back next week.
I owe you. I told you today...
them's the rules. Oh, excuse me,
She puts two hands lightly on his waist to move him out
of the way. He gulps at the contact (since no one else
ever touches him) but covers his self-consciousness.
(firmly to Lisa)
Will you please take it?
Melvin intentionally moves a step in her path, with
stealth, so that she must touch him again to get him out
of the way...
This way you take a cab home so
you have time to get ready for the
"Ready" is not my problem.
She barks a mirthless though hearty laugh. If we could
read Melvin which we can't, we'd see him unsettled by the
date talk. To Carol he is as harmless as furniture.
Go sit down. You know you're not
allowed back here... Spencer's
more excited about it than I am...
He says, "Mom, I promise not to
get a fever or couch during your date."
The other WAITRESSES and the SHORT ORDER COOK all go
I know. He's just the best.
I've got Jews at my table.
It's not your table. It's the
place's table. Behave. This
once, you can sit at someone
The two waitresses signal their protests.
Or you can just wait your turn...
Melvin walks back into the restaurant proper... he hangs
near their table... his discomfort builds in this limbo...
How much more you got to eat?
Your appetite isn't as big as
your noses, is it?
Let's go --
The Woman starts to protest.
Let's leave. We're going.
Melvin sits down at the table -- and takes from his
pocket a plastic eating utensil set wrapped and sealed.
As he opens his utensils.
Bryan says he doesn't care how
long you've been coming you ever
act like this again you're barred
for life. I'm gonna miss the
excitement, but I'll handle it.
There is in Carol's attitude toward Melvin some
ingredient of self-satisfaction -- that she is the only
one in the place who can handle him. She starts to clear
The table's fine if it had some
cholesterol on it. Two sausages,
six bacon strips, fries, three
eggs over easy and coffee.
You're gonna die soon with that
diet, you know that?
We're all gonna die soon. I will.
You will. It sure sounds like
your son will.
Stunned. Some crazy street-freak has slipped under her
perfect guard and momentarily devastated her. Melvin
senses that he's gone way too far. He wipes his knife.
If you ever mention my son again,
you will never be able to eat here
again. Do you understand? Give me
some sign you understand or leave
now. Do you understand me...
(adds truthful label)
you crazy freak? Do you?!?
A beat and then Melvin nods, hardly breathing -- backing
Okay. I'll get your order.
She walks away. Melvin watches her, biting his lower
lip. He takes some napkins and cleans the table himself.
INT. CAROL'S APARTMENT - NIGHT
She is underneath a YOUNGER, cuter MAN on the living room
sofa. He is expertly into foreplay. She begins to make
noises as she responds... each time startling herself
with her own noise and trying to reign it in.
She's two women here -- one speeding the pleasure highway
-- the other -- functional mom so blown away by the
emergence of this sexy self that she laughs. The Young
Man stops and looks at her.
I... I... I don't know... You got
His eyes try to burn into hers... She is getting excited
but doesn't know how to play it... He pushes one of the
fingers of the hand caressing her face toward her
mouth... She closes her teeth, his fingers attempt
opening her mouth. She stops him.
Let me just do whatever I do by
myself... I'll catch up to you
someplace I promise.
(as he's put off)
Oh, no... don't look like that.
No. I'm sorry if I'm a goof.
And so with earnestness and caring, she has transformed
the sex into something more intimate -- and, talk about
egg in your beer, hotter. Things are getting wild when
we hear from the distance a child, SPENCER, CALLING and
Kissing... kissing boys. Oh my.
Carol pulls her head away -- as Spencer's call continues.
Maybe you better check.
Like what did you think I was
going to do?
INT. HALLWAY/BEVERLY'S ROOM - NIGHT
Pulling herself together she goes off down the hallway...
she ducks her head into the first bedroom where her
mother, BEVERLY, is listening to music on headphones...
she takes them off when she sees Carol, then hears the
I'm sorry. I was hearing just
everything you were doing so I put
these on to give you privacy.
Carol now goes into her son's room.
INT. SPENCER'S ROOM - NIGHT
The room is a monument to horrible, sleepless nights...
two drugstore de-humidifying filters, a nebulizer
(breathing contraption) a waste basket... a night stand
filled with medicine, a blood pressure kit... along with
some stacks of seven-year-old toys and a small TV wedged
into the tiny space.
Don't be silly. How bad?
Carol feels his head... that's okay. Then he coughs --
trying to suppress it... then a bigger cough... they each
know what that signals... She brings up a waste basket as
he throws up... she comforts him. He apologizes. She
INT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT
As she re-enters. He is taking a cigarette from a pack.
(a bit panicked)
You can't smoke... He can't take
He palms the cigarette -- resumes making out -- his hand
squeezes her breast -- then he stops and looks at his
hand. She looks down and sees a bit of throw-up he
picked up while feeling her and then notices him looking
at her with extreme distaste... She barks a laugh to
cover her embarrassment but speaks the truth.
Oh, God... I don't even notice
She crosses to the kitchen for a dishtowel. Tries to make
That'll teach you.
That wasn't an apology.
She notices his demeanor -- how he avoids looking at her --
how uncomfortable he is.
Hey... this is just a little throw-
up -- it's nothing to be so
embarrassed about. Really.
(as he shifts
Thanks for the dinner. Let me
write down which trains you take
to get back.
I'll take a cab.
She deflates as he moves past her.
Too much reality for a Friday
EXT. HOLLAND TUNNEL - NIGHT
A cold night in hell. Three young men bullshit near the
approach to the tunnel. Their names are VINCENT, EVAN
and DOUG, who is the oldest at 28. Vincent is dopey and
the most likeable of the gritty little trio.
Why is every customer surprised I
You read books?
Oh, wow! I know this guy! Look!
He even bought me dinner.
They all focus on a black BMW as it slows and stops in
front of them. CARL checks them out carefully through
the front window. He is talking on the speaker phone.
Look, I just can't. I promised
Simon I'd find him a model.
(on speaker phone,
Carl, take me off the speaker.
Did I tell you that these are
house seats? C'mon, you could use
a break. Hello... Carl, are you
Seeing the hustlers:
. ... I just found a model.
Hey, how it's goin'...
Hey, hi... remember?
I only need one.
You picked me up, maybe a few
weeks, I don't know, some time
ago. You were very flattering
about our... encounter.
Maybe just you and me... but this
is for a painting. I need a
Carl beckons to Vincent who joins him, trying to conceal
his pride at winning this lowest end of beauty contest.
INT. SIMON'S APARTMENT - DAY
There is a KNOCK at the door -- Simon crosses to answer.
He is more relaxed than we've seen him -- a man at peace
humming to his favorite music, talking to his dog who
scratches at the door. Simon opens the door to Vincent.
Sorry, I was out in the studio
doing some work and I forgot about
He leads the way back toward the studio -- chatting away
-- unaware that Vincent is disrobing as he follows him
and eyeing the expensive apartment.
I usually make such a big deal out
of picking models but Carl's so
thorough. I'll bet he drove you
nuts checking your references.
And he turns and sees the naked model.
This isn't a nude.
Vincent moves back to retrieve his clothes.
Just kidding around.
So much for love.
INT. SIMON'S APARTMENT - STUDIO (MINUTES LATER)
Vincent is striking blatantly sexual poses to the
increasingly uneasy Simon.
Exactly what is your previous
How about that pose?
This is not fun...
Give me some direction.
Vincent has instinctively put Simon on the defensive. He
tries not to show it.
Nothing. I just watch till
something strikes me. Do anything
you think of -- try different
thing. Until I say, "hold that
pose." Then just try and
comfortably hold it.
(trying another space)
The fact that you haven't said,
"hold it" means I haven't done it
right... is that correct? I
haven't done it right?
No... Okay. What I do is watch
and wait for, um... You ever watch
someone who doesn't know you're
watching... an old woman on a bus,
kids going to school and you see
this flash come over them and you
know immediately that it has
nothing to do with anything
external -- that it's in respond
to a private thought they just
had? They are just sort of realer
and more alive. And when you
notice it so are you. If you look
at someone long enough, you
discover their humanity.
Vincent's slack-jawed expression changes. He feels an
intellectual tingle to be having this conversation.
I know exactly what you mean.
There's a joy in him at this moment -- a bit of purity.
Vincent does so -- hums a bit of "Satisfaction" to
INT. RESTAURANT - DAY
Carol and LESLIE, another waitress, are waiting for their
order at the cappuccino bar. Leslie is telling the story
of the traumatic audition which may have turned her life.
Carol is rapt.
As they pass Melvin she does not break stride, nor give
him notice. Though she is aware of him -- resentfully so
-- hard not to be since he is giving a moment to moment
commentary on her every action.
Clippity clop -- clippity clop --
she has to pretend she doesn't
hear me. Listening to the story
from the upset friend... now she
drops off the cappuccino and
smiles at the putzette who doesn't
even say, "Thank you." No, the
putzette wanted the whipped cream
so back she goes and now she has
to pass him again and it's getting
tougher to make believe.
Melvin stops -- she passes behind him to deliver an
uncharacteristic rabbit punch.
What's with the plastic picnic
ware? Why not try ours... afraid
it isn't clean?
I see the help -- judgement call.
Just give yourself a little pep
talk. "Must try other people's
clean silverware as part of the
fun of dining out."
What's wrong with your son,
What do you care?
Melvin just looks at her.
He's gotta fight to breathe.
His asthma can just shoot off the
charts -- he's allergic to dust
and this is New York and his
immune system bails on him when
there's trouble so an ear
infection... Is this bothering
An ear infection can send us to
the emergency room -- maybe five,
six times a month where I get
whatever nine-year-old they just
made a doctor. Nice chatting with
INT. SIMON'S APARTMENT - STUDIO - DAY (SEVERAL WEEKS LATER)
The greenhouse studio is a busy sanctuary, as Simon puts
the finishing touches on his painting of Vincent. A beat
and then a strange figure crosses between the CAMERA and
the scene -- gone before we can examine him further.
You can put on anything you want
now. I might be sort of done
Vincent quickly and expertly picks a CD to meet his
immediate needs and puts it on -- dying a little at every
second of silence during the transition... then LOUD
MUSIC PLAYS... Vincent even GOOSING the VOLUME. Simon
does a take -- he gestures Vincent to take it down --
which Vincent does.
ANGLE - APARTMENT
where it is not clear that a robbery is in progress --
Vincent's two friends from the street sweeping all
objects into large sacks -- one of them, Doug, pauses
to look past the terrace to the studio.
Lucky Vinnie -- he's a painting.
INT. SIMON'S APARTMENT, STUDIO - DAY
MUSIC PLAYS -- Simon cleaning up his stuff.
So you're practically finished,
Yes... well, there's one more
stage -- trying to figure out if
it's any good.
Simon sneaks a look at the canvas from another
perspective... he focuses -- then the smallest shy nod
of self-approval -- he's finished. Vincent is desperate
CLOSE ON dog as Verdell awakens, stretches and pricks his
ears. He moves quickly to the closed door and starts to
frantically scratch, attracting Simon's attention.
As Simon keeps walking... Vincent shoots over to the
Wait -- I want to see the
Just a second -- he has to go.
Simon opens the door and Verdell shoots out like a
bullet. Vincent pauses before the painting and is thrown
to see his humanity captured -- to be "immortalized."
INT. SIMON'S APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM - DAY
Doug and Evan are nearly to the front door as VERDELL
stops them with a vicious GROWL and BARK.
Simon is distracted -- looking down at his pet so that he
continues to walk toward Doug and Evan, not noticing
them -- Vincent, terribly afraid, appears behind Simon.
What's the matter, sweetheart?
He instantly stops. Shocked. Frozen. His eyes on the
stranger, Doug, looking at him. Now Vincent comes in.
Doug greets him.
Simon turns to Vincent.
Why are you doing this?
No. No. No. Hey, that painting
in there... I just want to tell
Now Evan appears holding a brass hat rack.
What are you doing? Cruising him?
And he uses the hat rack first as a spear, then as a
club, as the brief savage attack begins.
as he starts to go toward Simon and then scurries back in
fear. The three attackers leave. Now silence. A single
BARK from VERDELL.
INT. APARTMENT BUILDING (NEW YORK) - HALLWAY - DUSK
A mass of OFFICIAL PEOPLE clutter the hall as a gurney is
whisked down to the elevator. It's impossible to tell if
Simon is awake or dead. Melvin is standing against the
wall near his door a cop, RAY, interviewing him.
Okay. So you call 911 and don't
leave your name -- even a dumb
geezer should know that emergency
automatically pulls up your name.
How come you make a mistake like
How come you're pretending to do
cop work -- 'cause I don't think
you could find your ass if you
were spotted the hole.
Just move on. No one here killed
Oh, is he dead?
We will if we can and if we can't,
we'll come back and ask you again
INT. APARTMENT BUILDING (NEW YORK) - HALLWAY -
ANOTHER ANGLE - NIGHT
Frank standing upset, anxious, holding a dog bowl, a
leash and VERDELL, who is more upset making pathetic
little CRYING SOUNDS.
As we FOCUS BRIEFLY ON Verdell... Frank is talking to the
I've been praying for him since I
So I've got to get to the
hospital. If you could take the
dog just for tonight.
Oh, Lord -- I've got all these
antique knick-knacks... Or else
I'd be glad...
Maybe if you kept locked in
the bathroom. No? Okay. Thanks.
(as he turns away and she
closes the door he adds)
Old bitch... Damn dog.
A short laugh makes us realize that Melvin has witnessed
and enjoyed Frank's hostile mutterings...
VERDELL starts WHIMPERING as a pissed Frank approaches
You're taking him... yes... you're
taking him -- this will clear the
books. One night. You want to
say "no" to me? Try... because
I've never felt as nuts as I do
right this second. I almost want
you to try saying "no."
I'm not saying nothing to you.
Thanks for looking after him.
Frank pushes open the door to Melvin's apartment and
places Verdell inside.
INT. MELVIN'S APARTMENT - NIGHT
MUSIC IN: as Frank pulls the door partially closed to
block Verdell's escape.
The music represents Verdell's state of mind -- trapped
in the apartment of the man who tried to kill him. We
STAY with the dog during the O.S. dialogue: As his head
turns in panic we see his various POVs as the dialogue
Hey, where are you going? You
can't do this.
(calls after Frank)
I can't take a dog.
Nobody's ever been in here before.
You don't want to mess with me
today. I'll figure something else
INT. MELVIN'S APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM - NIGHT
Melvin enters -- the dog cowers in the shadows. Now
Melvin sees him.
VERDELL STOPS -- gives Melvin wide berth -- slinking
along the far wall. Melvin finds Verdell's fear of him a
I don't have dog food. And I
won't want dog food here. You'll
eat what we have. You'll eat what
Melvin exits. Verdell is in a major funk.
INT. MELVIN'S APARTMENT - KITCHEN - NIGHT
Melvin breaks two eggs over a large pile of prime chopped
meat, sticks raw pieces of bacon into it and exits the
Don't you touch anything.
INT. MELVIN'S APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM - NIGHT
Verdell cringing as his new master approaches -- MUSIC
CONTINUES ominously. Melvin sets the bowl down and
exits... Verdell breathes excitedly though looking
alternately in all directions... his recent past making
him suspect this feast is a trick. He sniffs
cautiously -- then dives in -- GOTHIC MUSIC CHANGING on a
dime TO SCORE his RAPTURE... from O.S. we hear the sound
of RUNNING WATER as steam escapes the bathroom -- then
MUSIC OUT -- as Melvin returns... ignoring Verdell he
sits at the piano and his one key repeatedly. It's odd.
Verdell shifts his body so he is eating from the bowl
with his tail to Melvin. Then Melvin begins to play and
sing Monty Python's "Always Look On The Bright Side Of
Life," with its cheerful whistle refrain. Verdell looks
over with surprise and pleasure. But just as mood lifts
and warmth threatens, Melvin stops abruptly, turns out
the lights and exits.
INT. HOSPITAL CORRIDOR - DAY
Frank on the phone.
Put the solid red dots on three of
them and the hold blue dots on two
others... Well, we're not going to
sell anything if they know we're
two weeks into a show and have no
sales. No, you can't reduce a
price at this stage... We're in
free fall here. Any calls?
We can see him.
I'll meet you in there.
INT. HOSPITAL ROOM - DAY
As Jackie enters.
How you doing, great one?
I haven't looked at myself yet. I
figured I could tell from your
He turns toward her. Much of his body -- taped -- his
painting hand wrapped. Simon's face is something of a
horror. Swollen, one savage discolored cut. We are into
yuccchhh... The sight is a jolt. Jackie breaks into
tears... sobs, actually.
That bad, huh?
They share a helpless half-laugh -- then Frank appears in
(as he sees him)
Haaa... bad but temporary. The
nurses say it's much better than
you looked three weeks ago... the
hand will come back... they're
Jackie, will you hand me the
(a small voice)
She starts to hand him a large mirror from her purse --
then thinks better of it.
Wait, I have a smaller one.
But he holds out his hand and she gives him the mirror --
he starts to look -- then thinks better of it.
So, what's new anyway? How's
Your neighbor -- Udall -- is
taking care of him.
(suddenly alive and upset)
How could you do that? He'll hurt
No, I promise... not a chance. I
own this guy. There was no one
else. I'm on the move too much.
You are very certain my dog is
okay... because you have no
Yes. Your dog is fine, Simon.
Simon holds the mirror poised for a moment of discovery,
then he takes a breath -- like someone about to dive
underwater. First a small, mumbled pep talk to himself.
Okay, waiting gives the devil
He quickly brings his hand up and looks at the mirror...
he is startled -- the bottom drops out -- leaving him
awed by his misfortune.
Oh my... Where'd I go? Ummmm?
EXT. CAROL'S RESTAURANT - DAY
AN ESTABLISHING SHOT FEATURING Verdell tied up in front.
INT. CAROL'S RESTAURANT - DAY
Melvin finishing a plate of eggs, bacon and sausage with
his plastic knife and fork. Carol looks totally beat as
she sets down a cup of coffee. Melvin is craning
periodically to keep an eye of his dog.
So what are you doing with a dog?
Suckered in. Set up. Pushed
You're not worried that someone
might take him?
Well, not until now -- for
It's okay -- I'll sit here.
He changes tables for the first time ever so that he can
keep an eye on Verdell. Carol is amazed.
You know he's a little dog. Next
time, if Bryan's not here, you can
bring him in.
How old are you?
If I had to guess by your eyes,
I'd say you were fifty.
Carol looks at him.
And if I had to guess by your
eyes. I'd say you were kind. So,
so much for eyes. But as long as
you bring up age... how old are
Otherwise, you're not ugly.
(laughs out loud)
Okay, pal... I accept the
compliment, but go easy -- my
knees start a-knocking when you
turn on the charm full blast.
What's with the dark?
He indicates the bags under her eyes by tapping his own.
Dawn patrol -- major dawn patrol.
My son had a full blown attack.
And this time, for extra fun, they
gave us the wrong antibiotics, so
I get him home...
She reaches for the plate of uneaten bacon -- he goes
No... no... leave it... the
bacon's for the dog.
She is jolted by the insensitivity of his interruption,
but he doesn't notice, turning, almost chatty.
Last week I was playing the piano
for him and he likes it, and so I
decide I'm going to make a little
You all set here?
Melvin nods -- a bit frustrated about not being able to
finish his dog story. He pockets the remaining bacon.
EXT. NEW YORK STREET - DAY
As Melvin walks Verdell back home, we notice, perhaps a
beat before Melvin, a remarkably event. Verdell is
avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk.
It's a beautiful day for our walk.
Melvin slows -- observes the dog mirroring his behavior.
again carefully placing his paws to avoid a crack in the
sidewalk. Melvin laughs out loud -- puts on plastic
gloves hurriedly so he can lift the dog to eye level.
Don't be like me, don't you be
like me. You stay just the way
you are because you are a perfect
man. I'm gonna take you home and
get you something to eat... what
Ohhh. I'd like to be treated like
(all smiles to Verdell)
Let's go home and do some writing.
INT. MELVIN'S APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM - NIGHT
Melvin whaling away at his computer, reading to himself
with great satisfaction as he goes.
Verdell sits at his chair, fascinated by the speed of his
master's fingers on the keyboard. He reads his writing
aloud to the dog.
"He turned off the gas jets and
carried her outside. He kissed
her brow and when her eyes opened
and found him, he said, 'there are
easier ways to break a date.' She
laughed. The only sensible
ambition he had ever known was now
realized. He had made the girl
happy. And what a girl. 'You've
saved my life,' she said, 'you'd
better make it up to me.'"
Exhilarated by his own words, he shuts down the machine...
(singing to Verdell)
(playing with him some)
Yes, I hate the doggy... yes, I
hate the doggy.
Sixty-two books... done!
As the dog goes shooting off to the kitchen we leave our
couple's play time for...
INT. SIMON'S APARTMENT - BEDROOM/LIVING ROOM/HALLWAY - DAY
As the rookie invalid awakens in precisely the same foul
mood he'd had on falling asleep. In the living room, the
maid, NORA, is talking with Jackie -- we catch only a few
words as they review Simon's mounting pile of bills and
talk of how long Nora can stay on.
INT. NEW YORK APARTMENT BUILDING - HALLWAY - DAY
Frank knocking on Melvin's door. He opens it.
How's Verdell doing?
He's a pain in the ass.
As he looks over at the dog, Verdell trots over and,
without realizing it, Melvin smiles at him to Frank's
Simon's home. I was sort of
hoping you could keep the dog
until he's had a chance to think
(leaping at the chance)
It's been five weeks... another
few won't kill me.
No. He wants him back. He'll be
(too loudly, weirdly)
Okay by me.
INT. MELVIN'S APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM - DAY
Melvin sits -- Verdell looks up at him. Melvin walks to
the door. He turns the lock... then checks that they are
locked... checks again to make sure he turned them in the
correct direction... turns from the door... then back to
check once more. And again... and again... anguished,
until now he breaks briefly, the dog looking on.
INT. NEW YORK BUILDING - MELVIN'S APARTMENT - HALLWAY - DAY
Melvin opens the door -- looks at the scarred Simon in a
wheelchair and shudders...
That's some face they left hanging
on you. You look like...
Could you take it just a little
easy, Mr. Udall?
A beat of silence as Melvin thinks whether to comply.
Thank you. Verdell... sweetheart?
By the way, thanks for saving me.
I called. I never touched you. I
didn't leave my name or nothing.
Totally weirded out... hiding behind Melvin... now Melvin
shifts and Simon and Verdell see each other... Simon
smiles at the dog... he is emotionally caught up in the
Verdell isn't eager.
The first gnawing pains of rejection.
INT. SIMON'S APARTMENT - DAY
Simon pats his leg -- trying unsuccessfully to get
Verdell to approach him. Instead the dog goes to the
door and scratches at it. Jackie starts to pick the dog
No. Please, don't force him.
You little stinker. He's given
INT. MELVIN'S APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM - DAY
Verdell's towel on the floor -- near his bowl.
BACK TO SCENE
Melvin's lips compress... he sits on the piano bench and
hits a few keys... looks at Verdell's empty spot again...
there are those who "get the joke" -- Melvin is clearly
one -- he laughs suddenly and helplessly even as he feels
the panic rise in him...
... all his painstaking success in keeping the lid on and
now it threatens to blow for a reason he articulates.
Over the dog... an ugly dog.
It's hilarious. But now the humor detours. An actual
sob is choked back... he gets up -- following a definite
pattern across the room. He is conducting a small but
highest-stakes fight for survival. Momentarily a scared,
beaten middle-aged man -- he races out the door.
EXT. NYC STREETS - DAY
Melvin charging as fast as crack checks allow and then
turning into a building with a copper sign reading
"Grammercy Park Psychiatric Group."
Worst sidewalk in New York and
look where they put in.
INT. PSYCHIATRIST'S OFFICE - DAY
Melvin bursts in on the psychiatrist and emits one word.
If you want to see me you will not
do this. You will make an
Explain to me how you can diagnose
someone as "obsessive compulsive
disorder" and then act like I have
any choice in barging in.
There's not going to be a debate.
You must leave.
The Doctor moves into the hallway, forcing Melvin to
You said you could help me --
what was that -- a tease?
I can help you if you take the
responsibility to keep regular
You changed the room around...
Two years ago...
Melvin shakes his head -- as if things weren't bad enough
he must go through a careful exercise noting every new
element before he's at all comfortable... as he studies
each object. The Doctor is professionally intrigued
I also regrew my beard... but
you're not interested in changes
in me... so it's like I always
told you... when it comes to
Shhhhhhh. I don't have this
mountain of available time... I
got to get to my restaurant on
time. Do you know how hard it is
for me to be here?
(as Melvin starts
for the office)
INT. PSYCHIATRISTS' WAITING ROOM - DAY
More PATIENTS in the almost-crowded waiting room. Melvin
passes through -- visibly drawn and upset. He stops.
Eyes on them. Then:
(to other patients)
What if this is as good as it
They look stricken. He exits.
INT. CAROL'S RESTAURANT - DAY
As he walks to his booth and sits down. Enormous relief.
CHERYL, a heavy-set waitress, reluctantly moves to his
table -- unseen by Melvin as he takes out his utensils
and arranges them. In a corner booth, four big TRANSIT
AUTHORITY POLICE are having a meal together. Cheryl
looks at his utensils.
What the heck are those for?
No. No. Get Carol.
I'm filling in. We don't know if
she's coming back. She might have
to get a job closer to home.
What are you trying to do to me?
What the heck do you mean?
Hey, elephant girl, call her or
something... just let her do my
one meal here. I'll pay whatever.
(as she doesn't
budge; he screams)
The MANAGER comes over, gesturing to the table of police
that he can handle it. All attention is on Melvin.
Out. Be silent or leave.
I'll be quiet. Just let me wait.
No problem. Get her here -- have
her get me two sausages, four
bacon, two eggs over easy and
coffee. I'm not a prick here --
I'm a great customer. This day is
a disaster. I can't handle this,
Get out immediately or there's
going to be trouble.
Melvin looks at the police, sizes up the hopeless
situation and rises.
There's going to be trouble???
He walks toward the door as Cheryl and all the other
employees applaud his defeat. As he passes a BUSBOY near
the door he hands him 20 dollars.
Carol's last name?
EXT. BROOKLYN STREET - DAY
An uncomfortable Melvin sitting in the back of a taxi.
A neighborhood in Brooklyn -- a community. Melvin, ever
the shark observer, looks from the cab to see slices of
community life -- MEN in front of a bar, PARENTS giving
their CHILD a ride on a mechanical horse outside a local
store -- two YOUNG WOMEN discuss dating.
EXT. CAROL'S BUILDING - DAY
As he exits -- RINGS the BELL and is BUZZED in.
INT. CAROL'S APARTMENT BUILDING - DOOR/HALLWAY - DAY
Carol opens the door just as he arrives on her landing.
She holds a container of ice, washclothes and a
(on Carol's astonished
You've upset my whole day. I
What are you doing here?
Melvin ignores the question, instead answering a charge
he had imagined she might make...
This is not a sexist thing. If
you were a waiter I would still be
Are you totally gone? This is my
I am trying to keep emotions out of
this. Even though this is an
important issue to me and I have
strong feelings about the subject.
What subject? That I wasn't there
to take crap from you and bring
you eggs? Do you have any control
over how creepy you allow yourself
Yes, I do, as a matter of fact...
and to prove it I have not gotten
personal and you have. Why aren't
you at work? You're not sick --
you don't look sick... just very
tired and bitter.
My son is sick, okay?
Even saying the sentence, "My son is sick" pushes some
emotions toward the surface which are wasted on the crazy
man at her threshold.
What about your mother?
How do you know about my mother?
I hear you talk when I'm
She crosses to the sink to dump the ice. Melvin takes a
step inside. Spencer, seven and looking ill, walks into
Sorry, honey... I'll be right
How ya doing?
Spencer just stares at him.
You should answer when someone
talks to you...
Carol eyes Melvin with disgust and disbelief then
emphatically gestures him to "clear out." Melvin backs
out the door.
Sorry. There is a limit, Melvin,
and I can't handle you teaching
my son manners.
She closes the door in his face, then walks to her son
and leads him back to his room.
INT. SPENCER'S ROOM
CAMERA MOVES TOWARD mother and son sitting on the edge of
Spencer's bed. She holds a digital thermometer to his
ear. They both count down the seconds.
CAROL AND SPENCER
5... 4... 3... 2... 1... Bingo.
We are going to treat ourselves to
a cab ride.
EXT. BROOKLYN SIDEWALK - ANGLE ON CAROL - DAY
As Carol carries her young son through a class of
uniformed KIDS from a Catholic elementary school. She
spots Melvin about to enter a cab.
The school kids pick up the chant in unison.
Melvin, wait! Melvin, wait!
He turns to face them.
Shut up, kids!
They immediately obey as Carol approaches him.
Melvin... give us a lift. We've
got to go see our friends at the
Melvin is thrown... he pauses a beat... then holds the
rear door open as Carol hustles the kid inside. The
maneuver puts the beet red, sweating Spencer at his face.
I'll ride up front. Cover your
mouth when you cough, kid.
INT. BROOKLYN CAB - DAY
As they settle in and drive off.
Brooklyn Presbyterian Hospital,
please and quickly please.
EXT. HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM - DAY
As Carol enters the hospital.
I owe you three dollars.
Melvin follows behind her as she carries her son...
Yeah, yeah... any chance you'll
get back to work today?
No!!! Stay away from me!
INT. SIMON'S APARTMENT - DAY
Verdell lies just inside the front door whimpering for
Melvin. Jackie sits across from Simon's wheel chair...
she has some index cards in her laps which she
occasionally consults and shuffles.
I feel terrible that I have to...
Simon? Forget about the dog for a
Simon forces his attention to Jackie.
Sorry. What are those cards?
(a bit 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
See, he's right. I need the
(reading from cards)
Simon, you're broke.
ANGLE ON VERDELL
as their conversation continues -- the dog is distressed.
The medical bill 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.
Well, I can't reach them.
Verdell walks out on the terrace and looks off. He turns
Here, baby... what is it,
Verdell?... You miss the tough
(trying to be
Well, here I am, you little pissant
mop, happy to see me? How about
another ride down the chute? Oh,
God... I don't mean it,
(on Jackie's look)
I'm sorry. I know...
Verdell hides behind a chair.
Frank loves you. You know that...
but I've spoken to him and he
feels that --
(reading from card)
-- as a businessman, with limited
I'll be able to keep my apartment
and studio, won't I?... Just tell
As Jackie looks at him then thumbs for a card.
Verdell has come near him -- he reaches out a hand to pet
the dog and the dog ducks.
INT. MELVIN'S APARTMENT - DAY
He is trying to write. He can't. His world has been upset.
He walks away from his work -- a highly unusual act. He
is distressed -- and then an idea and he exits.
INT. PUBLISHER'S OFFICE - DAY
We are looking at ZOE, the receptionist. She is listening
with interest to an O.S. conversation while answering
phone calls, "Premier Publishing."
FEMALE EXECUTIVE (O.S.)
Yes, you write more than anyone
else. Yes, you make us a lot of
money, but isn't there someone
more appropriate to...
I need this. Just say, "Melvin,
I'll try," okay?
FEMALE EXECUTIVE (O.S.)
Melvin, I'll try.
They appear now -- the woman tall, attractive, etc. She
pauses at the elevator.
Now, on a pleasant note, our son
got accepted at Brown. My
Great, wonderful. I don't need
you to wait with me.
She nods, pissed, waves and leaves. As Melvin waits, Zoe
summons her moxie.
I can't resist. You usually move
through here so quickly and I have
so many questions I want to ask
you. You have no idea what your
work means to me.
What's it mean?
That somebody out there knows what
it's like to be...
(taps her head and heart)
Oh God, this is like a nightmare.
Aw come on, just a couple of
questions -- how hard is that?
As he hits the button, wipes his fingers, hits the button
How do you write women so well?
(as he turns
I think of a man and take away
reason and accountability.
The fan is jolted as the elevator doors open and close.
EXT. STREET NEAR CAROL'S BUILDING - DAY
A depleted, exhausted Carol approaches her home. She is
suddenly wary -- SOUND DIALED DOWN -- as we MOVE CLOSER.
A car at the curb with "MD" license plate.
BACK TO SCENE
As Carol breaks into a run.
INT. CAROL'S APARTMENT BUILDING, STAIRWAY/HALLWAY - DAY
As she bounds the stairs, comes to her apartment door and
jiggles with the keys, a strange prescient whimpering
sound coming from her. As she enters the apartment.
Mrs. Connelly, I'm in here.
The worst confirmed, she moves down the narrow hallway,
her innards squirting the same chemicals that drives elk
on opening day of the hunting season.
INT. SPENCER'S ROOM - DAY
What? Please? Now? Tell me?!
Mrs. Connelly. I'm Martin Bettes
... Dr. Bettes.
Not your name... what are you
telling me your name for!! Where
He's in the bathroom... He's fine.
Tell me how bad it is. I let him
go out last night when it was so
cool without an overshirt -- just
and underone with just the straps
and I know better... and I let him
talk me into it. He was whining
and... you don't need this. Give
me a second to catch hold.
And so she does. Wow does she... and gives us some
notion of the size of her fear demon and the strength it
takes to subdue it as Dr. Bettes keeps reassuring her and
she keeps nodding... finally a deep breath as Spencer
enters from the bathroom. All at hyper speed now.
Salvation as farce.
(to his mother)
Did you know there are doctors who
come to your house?
No, I didn't.
So why are you h...
Beverly, Carol's mother, enters the room. She is ebullient
which, if life allowed, would be her natural state.
I didn't know you had a secret
You met the gift.
He's good... And I'm an expert on
Stay out of this... Doctor?
My wife is Melvin Udall's
(as Carol reacts)
She says I have to take great care
of this guy because you're
urgently needed back at work.
What work do you do?
I'm a waitress.
ON Dr. Bettes' reaction her mother adds a saving grace.
A NURSE enters.
Sorry it took so long. I don't
It's okay, Terry.
(hands her blood
Tell the lab I'd like the report
Carol and her mother exchange a look of incredulity.
You're going to get the results
As we approach the doctor and Carol seated across from
each other at a small table... soft voices... relaxation.
Bettes is examining medicine bottles.
How long has he been having
Have they done blood tests on him?
Only in the emergency room or when
he was well.
Emergency room only.
Have they done skin testing for
They haven't done the standard
scratch test. Where they make
small injections into the skin?
No. I asked. They said it's not
covered under my plan. And it's
not necessary anyway.
It's amazing these things weren't
Fucking H.M.O. bastard piece of
shit... I'm sorry... forgive me.
No. Actually, I think that's
their technical name.
Once the tests come back, is there
someone I can reach in your office
for the results?
Me. My home number is on this
His home number.
Carol look at her mother -- they share a laugh. Beverly
has a hard time stopping.
Do you want some juice or coffee
or two female slaves?
Water... Nobody told you it might
be a good idea to remove the
carpeting and drapes in Spencer's
She starts towards Spencer's room.
You don't have to do it this
second... it's not dangerous or
anything. It's just something
that's advisable. Look, there's
a lot to be checked but... Hey,
your son is going to feel a
good deal better at the very
She pats his head... Then embraces him with fierce
So listen, you gotta let me know
about the additional costs -- one
way or the other we'll...
They're considerable. But Mr.
Udall wants to be billed.
She takes this as a blow to the heart, stomach and groin.
INT. SIMON'S APARTMENT - DAY
Simon practices walking using his cane. A tearstained
Nora hugs him good-bye.
You poor, poor man.
Let's use just one poor, okay?
Anyway, dear, thanks for
everything. Forgive my recent
crankiness and as soon as things
are on track again I'll call.
She kisses him and starts for the door and suddenly a
sharp intake of breath -- she's forgotten something.
Who's going to walk Verdell?
Simon hadn't thought of this either.
INT. APARTMENT BUILDING (NEW YORK) - HALLWAY - DAY
Nora holding her things, knocks on Melvin's door. Melvin
opens the door. Nora is still sniffling. He misinterprets.
Is he dead yet?
No! Would there be any way for
you to be willing to walk his dog
Not just today -- Uh, could you
do it -- until, until he gets
back on his feet?
You're a wonderful man. Two
o'clock is a good time. Here's
the key in case he's asleep. Open
the curtains for him, so he sees
God's beautiful work and knows
that even things like this happen
for the best.
Where'd they teach you to talk
like this -- some Panama City
"Sailor want to hump-hump bar"?
Or was today getaway day and your
last shot at his whiskey. Sell
crazy some place else -- we're all
stocked up here.
He closes the door in her face. She stands there...
thrown by the abruptness -- then lifts the two paper
shopping bags holding her things -- walks back toward the
elevator -- pausing briefly outside Simon's door -- then
continues on her way.
INT. CAROL'S APARTMENT
The doctor gone, mother and daughter arguing.
There is a seriously goofy man
behind this. You are not allowed
to block out that fact.
Do you really want to go back to
the runt doctors in Emergency who
keep telling us they can't help?
It lets a crazy man into our
Come on. Why fight when we know
how it will come out. This isn't
like stocking or a string of
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