Thanks to a landmark performance by Al Pacino, SCENT OF A WOMAN is an agreeably watchable film. If they'd made it half an hour shorter and re-written the ending, it could have been a great one.
Pacino plays Frank Slade, a brilliant ex-Lieutenant Colonel whose career was cut short by a stupid accident. Now blind and embittered and living in New Hampshire with relatives, Slade has planned to exit this life in glorious style: after one last, hedonistic New York City weekend--the Waldorf,
the Oak Room, etc.--he plans to don his dress blues for the last time and casually blow out his brains.
The unwitting accomplice to Slade's plan is Charlie Simms, (Chris O'Donnell), an earnest, hard-up scholarship student at nearby cradle of WASP manhood, Baird College. Charlie, who has problems of his own--he witnessed a student prank and is faced with expulsion unless he sneaks on the
culprits--thinks he's going to earn $300 baby-sitting the abrasive Slade over Thanksgiving weekend. Instead, he finds himself on a whirlwind, induction-into-manhood tour of Manhattan.
Most of the adventures that befall Frank and Charlie are entirely unbelievable. Pacino inhabits the role with such passion and conviction, however, that we suspend our skepticism and delight in watching him dance a tango, test-drive a Ferrari or simply rail at his lot.
The dialogue ranges from the insightful to the crassly sentimental, and there's no dramatic structure to speak of. Nevertheless, Pacino, with commendable support from O'Donnell, makes us overlook these shortcomings--until the end, that is, when a hammy show-down at Baird College finally pushes the
credibility meter off the scale.
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