As Good As It Gets: “Pay Me a Compliment, Melvin…” | Transcript

Explore the pivotal restaurant scene from 'As Good As It Gets', where Jack Nicholson's Melvin delivers a heartwarming compliment to Helen Hunt's Carol
As Good As It Gets: “Pay Me a Compliment, Melvin...”


James L. Brooks romantic comedy stars an on-form Jack Nicholson as Melvin Udall, an acrimonious writer with OCD. Melvin’s carefully modulated life is shattered when his trusted waitress Carol (Helen Hunt) leaves work to care for her sick child, leaving him with no breakfast. When Melvin is forced to take a road trip with his gay neighbor, he persuades Carol to join them. His attempts to impress her climax in a restaurant when she delivers him an ultimatum — she’ll leave if he doesn’t pay her a compliment.

* * *


Carol and Melvin sit down at their table.

Melvin: I don’t get this place. They make me buy a new outfit; they let you in in a house-dress. I don’t get it.

Carol, unimpressed, stands to leave.

Melvin: What? Wait, where are you going? No, why? I didn’t mean it that way. You gotta sit down. You can still give me the dirty look. Just sit down and give it to me.

Carol: Pay me a compliment, Melvin. I need one. Quick! You have no idea how much what you just said hurt my feelings.

Melvin: The minute that someone gets that they need you, they threaten to walk out.

Carol: A compliment is something nice about somebody else. Now or never.

Melvin: Okay.

Melvin gestures frantically for her to sit down, to which she reluctantly obliges.

Carol: And mean it!

Melvin, deep in thought, wipes his brow and rubs his palms together.

Melvin: Can we order first?

Carol: Okay.

Melvin looks around, spots a waiter across the restaurant and proceeds to shout out his order.

Melvin: Uh, two hard-shelled crab dinners. A pitcher of ice-cold beer. (To Carol) Uh, baked or fries?

Carol: (overcome with embarrassment, mouthing to the waiter) Fries…

Melvin: One baked, one fries.

Waiter: Uh, I’ll tell your waiter.

Melvin: Okay. Now, I got a real great compliment for you. And it’s true.

Carol: I’m so afraid you’re about to say something awful.

Melvin: Don’t be pessimistic, it’s not your style. Okay, here I go; clearly a mistake. I’ve got this, what, ‘ailment’. My doctor, a shrink that I used to go to all the time, he says that in 50 to 60 per cent of cases a pill really helps. I hate pills, very dangerous thing, pills. “Hate”. I’m using the word “hate” here, about pills, “hate”. My compliment is, that night you came over and told me that you would never, uh…

Carol: Um…

Melvin: Alright, well, you were there. You know what you said. My compliment to you is, the next morning, I started taking the pills.

Carol: I don’t quite get how that’s a compliment for me.

Melvin: You make me want to be a better man.

Carol: (taken aback) That’s maybe the best compliment of my life.

Melvin: Well, maybe I overshot a little because I was aiming at just enough to keep you from walking out.

Carol: How’s it going with those pills? Good, I hope.

Melvin: Well it’s, uh, it’s little by little. It’s, it’s exhausting talking like this. Exhausting.

Carol moves to sit closer to Melvin.

Carol: Do you ever let a romantic moment make you do something you know is stupid?

Melvin: Never.

Carol: Here’s the trouble with never…

To Melvin’s surprise, she leans forward and kisses him.

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