He may be blind. He may be loud and crude. But he is passionate about women and can identify them by
the scent of their perfume.
He can drive a Ferrari like a maniac and leads in a tango.
He is Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, a man of many talents. And it’s up to a timid prep school student to
keep him from “blowing his brains out.”
What actor can pull off this multi-faceted role? Al Pacino. He delivers a genuinely spectacular Oscar-
worthy performance in “Scent of a Woman,” directed by Martin Brest and released in 1992.
I’m the Ranting Usher. Let me talk you to your scent.
This film’s pacing sprints in some spots and crawls in others. It is the character development that
remains engaging and enticing.
Colonel Slade’s outspoken and initially abrasive disposition overwhelms his caretaker, Charlie Simms,
played by Chris O’Donnell.
When Simms grudgingly agrees to take care of Slade to earn plane fare home for Christmas, an awkward
relationship develops between them that succeeds in creating tension while also being amusing and
The Colonel scolds his caretaker. “Are you blind? Are you blind? Why do you keep grabbing my god****
arm? I take your arm.”
Revealing his sensitivities and other redeeming qualities than those introduced at the beginning,
Colonel Slade metamorphoses into a complex character who paints the screen in vibrant colors. Few
actors can demonstrate such an arc.
The Colonel’s struggle to overcome bitterness and depression caused by his blindness, ultimately
leading to a suicide attempt, is portrayed with enough raw intensity that viewers need to empathize with
“What life?” Slade shouts. “I got no life. I’m in the dark here. You understand? I’m in the dark.”
The Colonel isn’t the only one in turmoil.
Charlie Simms faces a threat of expulsion from school if he doesn’t rat on his classmates who performed
an act of vandalism. He is guaranteed a scholarship if he gives them up. The subplot is intriguing in
that, while we sympathize for Charlie and want him to get ahead, we find ourselves questioning our own
moral values. Is it right to be a snitch or is it better to keep our mouths shut?
Simms: “There are some things you just can’t do. I’m not a squealer.”
The dichotomy between the two character conflicts allows more than enough room for the actors to play
off one another and establish a convincing chemistry. The way Simms and Slade help resolve each
other's issues lends depth and drama to the film, making it richly rewarding.
Some of the most important lines are spoken when the music plays, which is unnecessary. It’s as though
director Martin Brest and composer Thomas Newman are saying, “Hey movie buffs. You’re going to want
to pay attention to this. We really want to make you feel something.”
The tango scene at the restaurant is so masterfully choreographed that it doesn’t look like it was
choreographed at all. Every movement appears flawless and natural. That’s an amazing feat.
Pacino delivers a speech at the end that will make you want to stand up and cheer. “Whoo-ah.”
With a serious tone that is interspersed with amusing moments and emphasizing the values of family and
togetherness, “Scent of a Woman” can be enjoyed around the holidays.
I’m the Ranting Usher. Let me inhale you all like the scent of a happy Thanksgiving dinner.
Think you can handle looking after a man like Colonel Frank Slade? Let me know in the comments
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