Scent of a Woman is a 1992 American drama film produced and directed by Martin Brest that tells the story of a preparatory school student who takes a job as an assistant to an irritable, blind, medically retired Army lieutenant colonel. The film is a remake of Dino Risi's 1974 Italian film Profumo di donna, adapted by Bo Goldman from the novel Il buio e il miele (Italian: Darkness and Honey) by Giovanni Arpino. The film stars Al Pacino and Chris O'Donnell, with James Rebhorn, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Gabrielle Anwar in supporting roles.
|Scent of a Woman|
|Directed by||Martin Brest|
|Screenplay by||Bo Goldman|
|Based on||Il buio e il miele|
by Giovanni Arpino
|Suggested by||Character from Profumo di donna|
by Dino Risi
|Produced by||Martin Brest|
|Cinematography||Donald E. Thorin|
|Music by||Thomas Newman|
City Light Films
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$134.1 million|
Pacino won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance and the film was nominated for Best Director, Best Picture and Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published. The film won three major awards at the Golden Globe Awards: Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Motion Picture – Drama.
The film was shot primarily around New York state, and also on location at Princeton University, at the Emma Willard School, an all-girls school in Troy, New York, and at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City.
Charlie Simms is a scholarship student at Baird, an exclusive New England preparatory school. He accepts a temporary job over Thanksgiving weekend so he can buy a plane ticket home to Oregon for Christmas. The woman who hires him asks Charlie to watch over her uncle, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, a blind, highly decorated Vietnam War veteran whom Charlie discovers to be a cantankerous alcoholic.
Charlie and another student, George Willis Jr., witness three students setting up a prank to publicly humiliate the headmaster, Mr. Trask. After falling victim to the prank, Trask quickly learns of the witnesses and unsuccessfully presses them to name the perpetrators. Trask privately offers Charlie a bribe: a letter of recommendation to attend Harvard University.
Frank unexpectedly takes Charlie on a trip to New York City, where they stay at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. During dinner at the Oak Room, Frank glibly states his intention to commit suicide. They pay an uninvited visit to the home of Frank's brother in White Plains for Thanksgiving dinner, where the cause of Frank's blindness is revealed: while drunk, he juggled live grenades to show off for a group of younger officers, and one exploded. Frank deliberately provokes everyone at dinner, which ends after a heated confrontation with his nephew Randy.
As they return to New York City, Charlie tells Frank about his problem at school. Frank advises Charlie to turn informant and go to Harvard, warning him that George will probably submit to Trask's pressure, so he should act and obtain a benefit before George does. While at a restaurant, Frank notices Donna, a young woman waiting for her date. He leads her to the dance floor, where they perform a spectacular tango ("Por una Cabeza").
Deeply despondent the next morning, Frank is initially uninterested in Charlie's suggestions for that day's activities until he brings up test driving a new Ferrari. Frank talks the reluctant salesman into letting them take the car. Once on the road, Frank is unenthusiastic until Charlie allows him to drive, which results in a traffic stop, but Frank talks the police officer into letting them go without revealing that he is blind.
After returning the car and waiting to cross the street, Frank grows impatient and walks into the middle of Park Avenue, where he narrowly avoids being struck by multiple cars. When they return to the hotel, Frank sends Charlie to run several errands. Charlie initially leaves but quickly becomes suspicious. He returns to find Frank in his dress uniform and preparing to commit suicide with his service pistol. They fight over the gun, but Frank backs down after Charlie convinces him that he has much to live for and should face his circumstances courageously.
Charlie and George are subjected to a formal inquiry by the student/faculty disciplinary committee, with the rest of the student body on hand to observe. As Trask opens the proceedings, Frank unexpectedly appears and sits with Charlie. George enlists the help of his wealthy father and they name the three perpetrators. When pressed for details, the Willises claim George Jr.'s poor vision prevented him from seeing more and defer to Charlie. Charlie refuses to inform, so Trask recommends his expulsion. Frank changes his earlier position and launches into a passionate speech defending Charlie, in which he reminds the audience to value qualities like loyalty, integrity and courage. The disciplinary committee places the perpetrators on probation, deny George any reward for having named them and excuse Charlie from the rest of the proceedings.
As Charlie escorts Frank to his limousine, Frank flirts with political science professor Christine Downes, who commends him for his speech. He impresses her by telling her the brand of her perfume ("Fleurs de Rocaille"). Afterwards he inaccurately describes her to Charlie, stating her eyes are brown when they are actually blue. Charlie brings Frank home, where Frank happily greets his niece's children.
In addition, the three vandals are played by Nicholas Sadler (the ringleader), Todd Louiso and Matt Smith, while Gene Canfield plays limo driver Manny and Frances Conroy plays Christine Downes, the teacher that Slade sweet talks after the tribunal.
Screenplay writer for Scent of a Woman, Bo Goldman, said, "If there is a moral to the film, it is that if we leave ourselves open and available to the surprising contradictions in life, we will find the strength to go on."
Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Brendan Fraser, Dante Basco, Chris Rock, and Stephen Dorff were auditioned for the role of Charlie Simms. Jack Nicholson was offered the role of Lt. Col. Frank Slade but turned it down.
Pacino painstakingly researched his part in Scent of a Woman. To understand what it feels like to be blind, he met clients of New York's Associated Blind, being particularly interested in seeing from those who had lost their sight due to trauma. Clients traced the entire progression for him—from the moment they knew they would never see again to the depression and through to acceptance and adjustment. The Lighthouse, also in New York, schooled him in techniques a blind person might use to find a chair and seat themselves, pour liquid from a bottle and light a cigar.
Scent of a Woman was filmed in the following US locations.
- Brooklyn, New York City, New York
- Dumbo, Brooklyn, New York City, New York
- Emma Willard School, 285 Pawling Avenue, Troy, New York
- Hempstead House, Sands Point Preserve, 95 Middleneck Road, Port Washington, Long Island, New York (school)
- Kaufman Astoria Studios, 34-12 36th Street, Astoria, Queens, New York City, New York (studio)
- Long Island, New York
- Manhattan, New York City, New York
- Newark Liberty International Airport, Newark, New Jersey
- Pierre Hotel, Fifth Avenue & 61st Street, Manhattan, New York City, New York (ballroom where Frank and Donna dance the tango)
- Port Washington, Long Island, New York
- Prince's Bay, Staten Island, New York City, New York
- Princeton, New Jersey
- Queens, New York City, New York
- Rockefeller College—Upper Madison Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey (Scene at the Library)
- Staten Island, New York City, New York
- The Oak Room, The Plaza Hotel, 5th Avenue, Manhattan, New York City, New York (where Frank and Charlie have dinner)
- Troy, New York
- Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, 301 Park Avenue, Manhattan, New York City, New York
Scent of a Woman holds an 89% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes from 46 reviews. The site's consensus states: "It might soar on Al Pacino's performance more than the drama itself, but what a performance it is -- big, bold, occasionally over-the-top, and finally giving the Academy pause to award the star his first Oscar." The film holds a score of 59 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 14 critic reviews, indicating "mixed reviews".
Some criticized the film for its length. Variety's Todd McCarthy said it "goes on nearly an hour too long". Newsweek's David Ansen writes that the "two-character conceit doesn't warrant a two-and-a-half-hour running time".
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
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