“Wooh-ah” the Academy judges are a funny bunch, it takes them over three decades to finally recognise a great actor. Scent of a Woman saw Al Pacino finally snag the best actor Oscar. It was well deserved, but the same could be said of his performances in The Godfather and the countless other fantastic roles he has adorned.
Scent of a Woman is directed by Martin Brest of Beverly Hills Cop fame and pairs Pacino with Chris O’Donnell, who’s character Charlie Simms is a student at the school of Baird looking for a place at Harvard. He finds himself looking after Pacino’s Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade a blind, prickly character. Pacino plays Frank in such a way that the audience simply cannot invest themselves in him at first.
He is a horrid, bitter old man who none of his family care. But slowly as the film develops Frank reveals himself as a man with a big heart. He takes Charlie on a unplanned trip to New York City where they end up going on a series of adventures. Frank’s motives for visiting New York are to have fun and then commit suicide.
But slowly the relationship between Charlie and Frank develops. Pacino digs in with relish as his character slowly reveals his inner self. A wonderful man who is frustrated at the lack of sight he says and longs for companionship, “The day we stop lookin’, Charlie, is the day we die. The film is all about the characters and there isn’t much in terms of plot.
The driving narrative is that of Charlie facing expulsion from school and scuppering his chances of Harvard as he faces an ultimatum to rat out on his school friends who played a prank on the principal.
It all culminates in a grandstand finish at the school after Frank and Charlie return from their trip. Pacino walks on stage cane in hand. He sits their still, listening to the disciplinary hearing.
Then like a firework Pacino explodes, throughout the entire film it feels like he is a fuse ready to go, and cause trouble. But the change in Frank is highlighted by a wonderful speech delivered by Pacino as he takes the school to task.
That scene is the deal breaker. That scene takes this film from being good to great. The coming of age of not just Charlie but also Frank is complete. “Wooh-ah”