Scent of a Woman (1992)

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Critic Consensus: 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.

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Movie Info

Driven by an extravagant, tour-de-force performance by Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman is the story of Frank Slade (Pacino), a blind, retired army colonel who hires Charlie Simms (Chris O'Donnell), a poor college student on the verge of expulsion, to take care of him over Thanksgiving weekend. At the beginning of the weekend, Frank takes Charlie to New York, where he reveals to the student that he intends to visit his family, have a few terrific meals, sleep with a beautiful woman and, finally, commit suicide. The film follows the mis-matched pair over the course of the weekend, as they learn about life through their series of adventures. Though the story is a little contrived and predictable, it pulls all the right strings, thanks to O'Donnell's sympathetic supporting role and Pacino's powerful lead performance, for which he won his first Academy Award. Scent of a Woman is based on the 1975 Italian film Profumo Di Donna.

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Cast

Al Pacino
as Lt. Col. Frank Slade
Chris O'Donnell
as Charlie Simms
James Rebhorn
as Mr. Trask
Philip Seymour Hoffman
as George Willis Jr.
Richard Venture
as W.R. Slade
Nicholas Sadler
as Harry Havemeyer
Todd Louiso
as Trent Potter
Matt Smith (XI)
as Jimmy Jameson
Frances Conroy
as Christine Downes
June Squibb
as Mrs. Hunsaker
Ron Eldard
as Officer Gore
Sally Murphy
as Karen Rossi
Michael Santoro
as Donny Rossi
Alyson Feldman
as Francine Rossi
Erika Feldman
as Francine Rossi
Julian Stein
as Willie Rossi
Max Stein
as Willie Rossi
Ahn Duong
as Sofia
Leonard Gaines
as Freddie Bisco
Baxter Harris
as George Willis Sr.
Francie Swift
as Flight Attendant
Michel Simon
as Oak Room Waiter
William Beckwith
as Oak Room Maitre d'
J.T. Cromwell
as Ballroom Waiter
Peter Carew
as Bootblack
Paul Stocker
as Doorman
Mike Lisenco
as Cab Driver
Divina Cook
as Night Maid
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Critic Reviews for Scent of a Woman

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (9)

An irascible bully who proves to have a heart of gold, Pacino's character seems manufactured by a computer programmed with box-office grosses.

May 27, 2011 | Full Review…

Scent of a Woman indulgently stretches a modest conceit well past the breaking point.

May 21, 2008 | Full Review…
Variety
Top Critic

Corny and heart-warming, with O'Donnell proving almost a match for the master.

Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

The good thing is that the principals and film makers make the absolute most of a conventional opportunity.

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

By the end of Scent of a Woman, we have arrived at the usual conclusion of the coming-of-age movie, and the usual conclusion of the prep school movie. But rarely have we been taken there with so much intelligence and skill.

Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

When all Pacino's demons are bared, they don't add up to the poignant punchline you were set up for.

Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Scent of a Woman

½

Pacino is on fine form with a dazzling performance but it's not enough to make this film shine in my eyes!

Film Crazy
Film Crazy

Super Reviewer

Al Pacino is magic in this film. You can't take his eyes of him. Added to this, the film is moving and carries an important message. It is a satisfying, uplifting, triumphant film that must be watched!

Matthew Samuel Mirliani
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer

½

When things get tangled, tango on! Great Film! The Scent of a Woman is the kind of film that many would think belongs to a bygone era. While it is frank and contemporary without sugar coating it illustrates the value of character over glitz and how small acts can have long lasting consequences. The Scent of a Woman is very satisfying on many levels. Of course the primary reason it succeeds is Al Pacino, whose Oscar was well-deserved, needless to say. Chris O'Donnell doesn't overplay his part, and in doing so is realistic and natural. The character development is superb, dialogue terrific, glamorous locations and a story line that requires the characters to show themselves to be the people they really are. The film has a lot of funny lines and great drama. Frank is a retired Lt Col in the US army. He's blind and impossible to get along with. Charlie is at school and is looking forward to going to university; to help pay for a trip home for Christmas, he agrees to look after Frank over thanksgiving. Frank's niece says this will be easy money, but she didn't reckon on Frank spending his thanksgiving in New York.

Manu Gino
Manu Gino

Super Reviewer

Al Pacino is one of the most respected and talented actors in the history of filmmaking. So why did it take him over 20 years in the business before he finally got his hands on one of those golden little baldies, that go by the name of Oscar? It's a question that will confound many but at least now, with this performance in 1992, it probably, proudly, rests on his mantelpiece. In order to make some money for a Christmas trip home, impoverished college-student Charlie (Chris O'Donnell) agrees to look after Frank (Al Pacino), 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. At the time of this films release Pacino had had 4 nominations for Best Actor and 3 nominations for Best Supporting Actor. He had produced such sterling work in classic films like "The Godfather", "Serpico", "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Scarface". This is only a few in a long list but, finally, no-one could argue with his bravura portrayal of a blind, hard drinking, ex-Army colonel. This isn't the type of film you'd tip for Pacino receiving an award but it's a performance that can't be ignored. Yes, grandstanding does ensue, but hey! It's Pacino, he's allowed. There's an unsettling intensity to his performance that's so powerful, it's hard to take your eyes off him. Ironically, he plays a blind man but his performance allows the audience to see. To see, what an actor can encapsulate. The film itself is a tad lighthearted and despite being overshadowed considerably, a young Chris O'Donnell handles himself well in such company. But it feels like the story itself is only a vehicle, or series of scenes, in which to allow Al to chew up. It's enjoyable stuff nonetheless and at a running time of 2hrs 30mins, you wouldn't know. The time flies by as it's so much fun. A major demerit is the Hollywood perfect, rousing, finale though. The schmaltz factor goes through the roof, leaving you feeling a bit embarrassed at the audacity in even attempting it and it seriously sells the film short. If I was to rate this based on Pacino's performance, it would be an unquestionable 5 stars. It's one of his finest. However, the flimsy material brings the film down a notch.

Mark Walker
Mark Walker

Super Reviewer

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