ⓘ Scent of a Woman (1992 film)

Scent of a Woman (1992 film)

ⓘ Scent of a Woman (1992 film)

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 officer. The film is a remake of Dino Risis 1974 Italian film Profumo di donna, adapted by Bo Goldman from the novel Il buio e il miele by Giovanni Arpino and from the 1974 screenplay by Ruggero Maccari and Dino Risi. The film stars Al Pacino and Chris ODonnell, with James Rebhorn, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Gabrielle Anwar.

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.


1. Plot

Charlie Simms is a student at the Baird School, an exclusive New England prep school. Unlike most of his peers, Charlie was not born into a wealthy family, and attends the school on a scholarship. Charlie accepts a temporary job over Thanksgiving weekend in order to afford a plane ticket home to Oregon for Christmas. The woman who hires him asks Charlie to watch over her uncle, Army Ranger Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, whom Charlie discovers to be a cantankerous, blind alcoholic. Charlie and George Willis, Jr., another student at the Baird School, witness three students setting up a prank that publicly humiliates the headmaster, Mr. Trask. Incensed over the prank, Trask quickly learns of the two student witnesses and presses Charlie and George to divulge the names of the perpetrators. Once George has left the office, Trask offers Charlie a bribe: a letter of recommendation that would virtually guarantee his acceptance to Harvard. Charlie remains silent, but is conflicted about what to do. Shortly after Charlie arrives, Frank unexpectedly whisks Charlie off on a trip to New York City. Frank reserves a room at the Waldorf-Astoria. During dinner at the Oak Room, Frank glibly states the goals of the trip, which involve enjoying luxurious accommodations in New York before committing suicide. Charlie is taken aback and does not know if Frank is serious. They pay an uninvited visit to Franks brothers home in White Plains for Thanksgiving dinner. Frank is an unpleasant surprise for the family, as he deliberately provokes everyone and the night ends in acrimony. During this time, the cause of Franks blindness is also revealed: he was juggling live hand grenades, showing off for a group of second lieutenants, and one of the grenades exploded.

As they return to New York City, Charlie tells Frank about his complications at school. Frank advises Charlie to inform on his classmates and go to Harvard, warning him that George will probably give in to the pressure to talk, and Charlie had better cash in before George does. Later at a restaurant, Frank is aware of Donna, a young woman waiting for her date. Although blind, Frank leads Donna in a spectacular tango "Por una Cabeza" on the dance floor. That night, he hires a female escort. Deeply despondent the next morning, Frank is initially uninterested in Charlies proposals for something to do until he suggests they test drive a 1989 Ferrari Mondial t Cabriolet. Frank smooth-talks the initially-reluctant Ferrari dealership salesman into letting Charlie, who Frank says his son, test-drive the car. Once on the road, Frank is unenthusiastic until Charlie allows him to drive, quickly getting the attention of a police officer. Once again being calm and charming in a potentially difficult situation, Frank talks the officer into letting them go without giving away his blindness. After returning the Ferrari and waiting to cross the street, Frank grows impatient and walks into the middle of traffic on Park Avenue, where he narrowly avoids being struck by multiple cars. He then attempts to publicly urinate before being stopped by Charlie out of fear of Frank being arrested. When they return to the hotel, Frank sends Charlie out on a list of errands. Charlie initially leaves the room but quickly becomes suspicious. Charlie returns to find Frank in uniform and preparing to commit suicide with his service pistol. Charlie intervenes and they enter a tense fight, with both grappling for the gun; however, Frank backs down after Charlie bravely calms him. The two return to New England.

At school, Charlie and George are subjected to a formal inquiry in front of the entire student body and the student/faculty disciplinary committee. As Headmaster Trask is opening the proceedings, Frank unexpectedly returns to the school, joining Charlie on the auditorium stage for support. For his defense, George has enlisted the help of his wealthy father, using his poor vision as an excuse before naming all three of the perpetrators. When pressed for more details, George passes the burden to Charlie. Although struggling with his decision, Charlie gives no information, so Trask recommends Charlies expulsion. Frank cannot contain himself and launches into a passionate speech defending Charlie and reminding the countrys future elite and its trainers of the value of integrity. After brief deliberations, the disciplinary committee decide to place the students named by George on probation, deny George of any accolades for his testimony and excuse Charlie from punishment, allowing him to have no further involvement in the proceedings. As Charlie escorts Frank to his limo, Frank flirts with a young political science professor, and is returned home by Charlie, where Frank happily greets his nieces young children.


2. Production

Scent of a Woman was filmed in the following US locations.

  • Dumbo, Brooklyn, New York City, New York
  • Long Island, New York
  • Princeton, New Jersey
  • Troy, New York
  • Queens, New York City, New York
  • Princes Bay, Staten Island, New York City, New York
  • Manhattan, New York City, New York
  • Staten Island, New York City, New York
  • Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, 301 Park Avenue, Manhattan, New York City, New York
  • New York City, New York
  • Pierre Hotel, Fifth Avenue & 61st Street, Manhattan, New York City, New York ballroom where Frank and Donna dance the tango
  • Kaufman Astoria Studios, 3412 36th Street, Astoria, Queens, New York City, New York studio
  • Rockefeller College - Upper Madison Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
  • The Oak Room, The Plaza Hotel, 5th Avenue, Manhattan, New York City, New York where Frank and Charlie have dinner
  • Brooklyn, New York City, New York
  • Hempstead House, Sands Point Preserve, 95 Middleneck Road, Port Washington, Long Island, New York school
  • Port Washington, Long Island, New York
  • Emma Willard School, 285 Pawling Avenue, Troy, New York
  • Newark Liberty International Airport, Newark, New Jersey

Pacino painstakingly researched his part in Scent of a Woman. To understand what it feels like to be blind, he met with clients of New Yorks Associated Blind, being particularly interested in hearing 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.

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."


3. Reception

Scent of a Woman holds an 88% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, and a score of 59 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 14 critic reviews, indicating "mixed reviews".

Pacino won an Academy Award for Best Actor, the first of his career after four previous nominations for Best Actor, and his eighth overall nomination.

Some criticized the film for its length. Variety s Todd McCarthy said it "goes on nearly an hour too long". Newsweek s David Ansen believes that the "two-character conceit doesnt warrant a two-and-a-half-hour running time".

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

  • 2005: AFIs 100 Years.100 Movie Quotes
  • Lt. Col. Frank Slade: "Hoo-ah!" – Nominated
  • 2006: AFIs 100 Years.100 Cheers – Nominated

Box office

The film earned US$ 63.095.253 in the US and $71 million internationally, totaling $134.095.253 worldwide.