TCP #23: Scent of a Woman


I have several favorite courtroom drama movies, notably the superb "The Rainmaker," and including "The Firm, " "My Cousin Vinny," "Primal Fear," "A Few Good Men," and why not? "Legally Blonde." But my entry for today is not even a courtroom drama, "Scent of a Woman."
Here we have an idealistic, poor, but intelligent student (Charlie Simms, played by Chris O'Donnell) who works during school break for extra money. He ends up babysitting a retired and blind ex-soldier (Lt. Col. Frank Slade, played by Al Pacino) with a death wish. The first few scenes establishes both characters solidly, as Charlie shows himself to be smart, a man of character, and Frank is out-and-out obnoxious even -- or especially to -- his family. (Both actors are exceptional in this film! And the script is wonderful!) Slade brings Charlie to New York where he plans to have a last fling before he kills himself to end what he considers as a hopeless, pathetic existence.
While in New York, Frank lives it up; he pulls out all stops to make one major last hurrah. Charlie goes along and in the process, they bond, despite Franks irascible and insulting ways. There's a scene in a restaurant where Frank smells the perfume of a woman (Gabrielle Anwar, dropdead gorgeous). He asks Charlie for the coordinates of the ballroom, basically how much room there is for him to dance. Then he follows the woman's scent, goes to her, asks her to dance, and they tango. That scene alone is indelibly etched in my brain, and if only for that, this movie is worth watching.
But I'm voting it in because of the courtroom scene. Actually, there's no courtroom. Charlie is being tried before the school's board for a prank pulled by other students, which, to me, is similar to being tried in court. The administration knows that Charlie knows who did it, but he's not telling, and they're making him bleed to make him squeal. He's being threatened that his scholarship (without which he can't finish his studies) will be taken away if he doesn't tell.
Charlie won't tell because it's against his sense of honor to snitch. I don't agree with him there (so if you need to bury a body, you know whom not to call, lol). But Frank barges into the room and defends Charlie.Listen:
"Now I have come to the cross-roads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew, but I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard. Now here's Charlie. He's come to the cross-roads. He has chosen a path. It's the right path. It's a path made of principle that leads to character. Let him continue on his journey."
""I don't know if Charlie's silence here today is right or wrong; I'm not a judge or jury. But I can tell you this: he won't sell anybody out to buy his future!"
Charlie is excused from further response. The movie ends on a hopeful note. Altogether a worthy film to see.
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