The Scent of a Woman Review

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In order to make some money for a Christmas trip home, impoverished college-student Charlie agrees to look after Frank, a blind retired Colonel for Thanksgiving. Babysitting takes on a whole new dimension when Frank decides he wants to spent the weekend living it up in New York City.


As Lt. Col. Frank Slade, a lonely bitter soldier blinded — literally — by his own obnoxious foolishness, Al Pacino roars his way through a role that might have been generated by a Going For Oscar computer programme. He is loud, crusty but lovable, wisecracking, physically-challenged and, in a denouement that crosses Dead Poets Society with courtroom drama, even affects a sudden, inexplicably Southern accent.

Indeed, Pacino rampant is just about the whole show in this contrived, overlong, deceptively titled generation gap buddy picture. Sweet, sincere Chris O'Donnell is Charlie, a poor scholarship boy at a snooty New England prep school who nervously accepts the job of babysitting irascible, acid Col. Frank for the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. As soon as the relations are out of the way, young Charlie finds himself Frank's captive sidekick, shanghaied for a wild fling in New York City, where Frank indulges his tastes for Jack Daniels, fragrant women, tango dancing and gallows humour. He even has a catchword — "Hoo-wah!" — to indicate pleasure, amazement or danger at regular intervals.

Bo Goldman's script is primarily notable for the relentless stream of poisonous, filthy, funny quips given to Pacino, most of them directed at O'Donnell’s nicely ingenuous straight man foil. Yet it doesn't take a genius to realise that when Charlie's employer innocently suggests "By Sunday night you'll be best friends," so they will.

With its echoes of Rain Man and Poets (in the unnecessarily protracted schoolboys-and-honour guff), this is little more than an entertaining show-off routine for Pacino, with little apparent intervention from the director. And it is one he does with such knowing relish that when he concludes a heartstring-tugging monologue with the aside "Was that cornball enough?" one has to applaud in enthusiastic agreement.

While fairly predictable and unoriginal, it is nevertheless entertaining.