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Scent of a Woman (1992)

Plot: A grouchy, blind, alcoholic army colonel enlists a prep school kid to help him on a suicide mission over Thanksgiving.

Charlie is recruited into a holiday suicide mission in this heartwarming tale.Charlie Simms (Batman Forever’s Chris O'Donnell) is a poor kid at a rich prep school who answers an ad for a $300 gig over Thanksgiving.  He needs the dough to fly home to Oregon for X-mas, so he shows up to find out more about the job.  Turns out he’d be babysitting blind boozehound Lt. Colonel Frank Slade (Al Pacino) while his niece bails: not a great gig for sure.  After the (retired) Colonel pours creamy abuse all over his exposed soul, he agrees.  Hoo-ah!!  Hah!!!

Meanwhile his prep school buddies pull a humiliating prank on the headmaster which Charlie and another student (Philip Seymour Hoffman) witness.  The headmaster (perennial character actor James Rebhorn) bribes Charlie with guaranteed admission to Harvard to rat out the rich kids who did it.  He’s torn but thinks it over.

Here Hoffman reveals he's about 10 years old.He shows up at Frank’s place to babysit – a squalid shack on his niece’s property – only to find out they’re really off to New York City for some reason.  They check into the Waldorf-Astoria, a famously luxurious hotel inhabited by former presidents and an established location for many films, but thankfully never owned by Donald Trump.  Over dinner Frank reveals the plan to Chuck: they’re going to experience the high-life – wine, women and song – and then Frank’s going to kill himself.  Frank then eats some rolls and they soldier on.

Next day it’s off to Thanksgiving at Frank’s brother’s house (Richard Venture).  Unlike our other tales, this Thanksgiving table is overflowing with the classics: a spread worthy of Norman Rockwell’s brush.  Frank tells dirty stories, acts like an ass, and destroys Thanksgiving dinner like the hand grenade that took his eyesight.  After attacking Bradley Whitford for acting like a jerk – something Whitford perfected in The West Wing – the pair repair to their waiting limousine and back to the hotel.

What Thanksgiving is complete without a murder-suicide attempt?In the morning it’s time for weapon assembly training and, after some bonus abuse for Charlie, he tells the Colonel his dilemma back at school: to rat or not to rat, that is the question.  The Colonel advises him to squeal, they grab some drinks and Frank gets laid.

Next day Frank test drives a Ferrari with Charlie.  Driving while blind is probably illegal in New York, but our pair don’t let formality stand in the way of a good time.  They get busted and talk their way out of what must be a felony, and we solider on.  Back at the hotel, Frank suits up for his suicide and attempts to murder Chuck for being a rat, the position he’s been cynically advocating the entire film.  They struggle and Frank finally decides against the whole murder-suicide thing.  Hoo-ah!!

Franks speech gets Chuck off the charges.Back at school, Chuck and Frank attend the special disciplinary hearing about the dumb prank from Act One.  Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character – a weaselly guy – rats out the pranksters.  Chuck refuses to name names.  Frank gives a riling speech on the nature of modern leadership which causes the naïve disciplinary committee to exonerate Chuck of all charges.  Everyone cheers!  Hoo-ah!!!!

The Reputation: An Oscar winning performance by Pacino has made this a modern classic tale of dignity, honor, and experiencing all that life has to offer despite the hardships and misery.

Hidden Terrible Lesson: The guy in charge wins unless you publicly shame them into doing the obviously right thing.  (Or: It’s better to fly to Oregon than New York to get reliable help killing yourself.)

Illustratrions: screenshots


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