Scent of a Woman (1992) – REVIEW

by Jordache Wee

Release Date: December 23, 1992
Directed by: Martin Brest
Music by: Thomas Newman
Starring: Al Pacino, Chris O’Donnell, James Rebhorn, Gabrielle Anwar, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Venture, Bradley Whitford, Rochelle Oliver, Gene Canfield, Tom Riis Farrell, Nicholas Sadler, Todd Louiso, Frances Conroy, Ron Eldard, Matt Smith, June Squibb

Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell) is a student on scholarship in Baird School. He comes from Oregon and his mother own a grocery store which opens at 5am and closes at 1am.

One day, he was approached by George Willis Jr. (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Trent Potter (Todd Louiso), Harry Havemeyer (Nicholas Sadler) and Jimmy Jameson (Matt Smith) about a Thanksgiving trip to Sugarbush. Charlie rejects the offer because he can not afford it.

Mr. Trask (James Rebhorn), the school’s headmaster drives a new Jaguar XJS given by the Board of Trustees caught the attention of Harry Havemeyer that he intended to greet him.

Charlie checks out the notice board for a part-time job to fill his holidays instead of returning all the way to Oregon. He decided to take a babysitting job. He meets up with Gail and then had an interview session with Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (Al Pacino). A veteran soldier discharged from the military due to sight impaired. Charlie is frighten by his attitude and words but still take the job.

At night, he works as a school librarian and he met George Jr., who wants to borrow a reserved book which is not allowed to taken out although he promises to return the next day. Charlie locks the door and walks along with George Jr. That night, they saw three students messing with the lamp post as they attach something to it. Apparently, George Jr. knows the three culprit when Mrs. Hunsaker (June Squibb)  sudden appearance from behind was curious about the things that is going on.

Next morning, Mr. Trask drives his Jaguar XJS and parks under the same slot with the lamp post above it. Harry starts using the school’s microphone and mock at Mr. Trask’s leadership and his car as the “something” turns out to be a yellow balloon. The yellow balloon becomes a giant ball as Mr. Trask jumps to burst the balloon. When he gets to burst it, unknown white liquid stains his car.

Mrs. Hunsaker informs Mr. Trask that three boys has plan to sabotage his car and the two other witnesses are George Jr. and Charlie. They are called in for questioning to identify the culprits. George Jr. could not see the culprits and Charlie would not say who. Then, Mr. Trask offers Charlie a bribe of recommendation into Harvard School to think about it.

After school, George Jr. was curious to know if Charlie mention the names but he denies and head to Frank’s home. When Charlie reach Frank’s home, he is asked to prepare Frank’s uniform into luggage because there he has a meeting with some old friends in New York. Frank needs Charlie to accompany him to New York for two days but Charlie hesitates and goes in the end.

They arrived at Waldrof-Astoria from a first class air travel. While having dinner at an exclusive luxury restaurant, Frank reveals the goals of this trip [1] Travel first class, [2] Eat an agreeable meal at an exclusive restaurant, [3] Stay at a luxury hotel, [4]Visit his older brother for Thanksgiving, [5] Make love to a beautiful woman, and finally to blow his brains out. Charlie was stunned to hear what Frank has just said the last sentence.

When Frank pay a surprise visit at his brother’s home, W.R. Slade/Willie, things does not look good as it seems. His brother’s family is afraid of him and his nephew despises him for being a no good uncle in the family. Charlie also learns from Frank’s nephew on how he got his both eyes blind by juggling a grenade.

Charlie and Frank returns to the hotel. Then he told Frank about his trouble in school about Mr. Trask’s bribery schemes and George Jr. Frank advises Charlie to take the bribe instead because George Jr. will not remain silence if he is being pressured by his powerful father, George Sr.

Despite being blind, Frank has a sharp sense of conscience to evaluate the trouble and find a solution to it, he also has a sensitive nose to smell and identify the fragrance and soap of a woman’s use.

One evening in a restaurant, Frank sense a beautiful woman nearby. Frank and Charlie introduce and ask permission to sit beside Donna (Gabrielle Anwar) while she waits for her boyfriend. Frank offers her lesson at tango and she accepts. Even though he is blind, he makes a magnificent tango dance accompanied with the “Por Una Carbeza” music.

Donna (Gabrielle Anwar)

Back in the hotel the next day, Frank has not get up from bed and says that he has nothing more to do. Charlie propose for a test drive. Frank and Charlie is seen at the Ferrari shop. Frank picks the 1989 Ferrari Mondial Cabriolet and drives using only Charlie’s sight at maximum speed when he was stopped by Officer Gore (Ron Eldard). The young officer did not issue a speeding ticket but wants Frank to return the car back at the shop.

When they return to the hotel, Frank send Charlie to run some errands to buy a set of quality Monte Cristo’s Cuban cigars and some Johnnie Walker. Charlie finds this errand suspicious and returns to the hotel, to find Frank wearing his military uniform with a pistol on the table. Frank is ready to “blow his brains out”. Charlie advises him not to commit suicide and further telling him that if he plans to shoot himself; he better shoot him too because George Jr. is being supported by his father.

Frank relaxes and lies down his firearm and confess about finding the right woman to be with.

They return to New England and send Charlie to Baird School to prepare for a disciplinary committee meeting where there will be a court-like session to question George Jr. and Charlie. George Jr. confesses that he can not see who it was at night because he wears contact lens but did not wear on that night. Charlie still refuses to mention the culprits. But George Jr. gave in and reveal the names of the three culprits.

Mr. Trask (James Rebhorn) questioning Charlie Simms

When the verdict is said, Mr. Trask said Charlies is to be expelled from school was halted by Frank when he enters and join in the discussion, being as a temporary guardian and behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Simms. Frank lashes out at Mr. Trask on his bribery schemes, George Jr. on being part of the accomplices of that event that night and the three other main culprits.

Lt. Col. Frank Slade (Al Pacino) defending Charlie Simms (Chris O'Donnell)

Charlie won the case with George Jr. not having a commendation form and the three culprits suspended from school.

Charlie walks along with Frank when an auburn hair and 5′ 7 woman using Fleur de Rocaille (Flowers from a Brook) and teaches political science appears to admire Frank. She is Chirstine Downes (Frances Conroy). A romance soon sparks.

Frank and Charlie parted ways as Frank returns to his niece’s home.

Reviewer’s Note:
Al Pacino is no doubt a talented man when he plays the role of a blind Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade. A serviceman who has sharp sense of his surrounding despite being blind. His character is an admirable one.

There’s nothing more than having Al Pacino in it. But this is just one of his heyday characters if compare to 2000s movies.


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