Scent of a Woman (1992 film)

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Scent of a Woman
Scent of a Woman.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMartin Brest
Produced byMartin Brest
Ronald L. Schwary
Screenplay byBo Goldman
Suggested by
Based onIl buio e il miele
by Giovanni Arpino
Music byThomas Newman
CinematographyDonald E. Thorin
Edited by
City Light Films
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • December 23, 1992 (1992-12-23)
Running time
156 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$31 million[1]
Box office$134.1 million

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 [it] (Italian: Darkness and Honey) by Giovanni Arpino and from the 1974 screenplay by Ruggero Maccari and Dino Risi. The film stars Al Pacino and Chris O'Donnell, 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.[2]

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 student at the Baird School, an exclusive New England preparatory 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 to afford 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, whom Charlie discovers to be a cantankerous, blind alcoholic. George Willis, Jr., another student at the Baird School, and Charlie witness three students setting up a prank that publicly humiliates Mr. Trask, the headmaster. 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 Frank's brother's 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 Frank's blindness is also revealed: While drunk, he was juggling live hand grenades, showing off for a group of second lieutenants, when 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 Charlie's proposals for something to do until he suggests they go for a drive in a 1989 Ferrari Mondial t Cabriolet. Frank smooth-talks the initially reluctant Ferrari dealership salesman into letting Charlie, who Frank says is his son, take the vehicle out for a test drive. Once on the road, Frank is unenthusiastic until Charlie allows him to drive, quickly arousing 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 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 Charlie's expulsion. Frank cannot contain himself and launches into a passionate speech defending Charlie and reminding the country's 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 niece's young children.



Scent of a Woman was filmed in the following US locations.[3]

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 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.[4]

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."[4]


Scent of a Woman holds an 89% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes from 45 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."[5] The film holds a score of 59 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 14 critic reviews, indicating "mixed reviews".[6]

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.[7] Variety's Todd McCarthy said it "goes on nearly an hour too long".[8] Newsweek's David Ansen writes that the "two-character conceit doesn't warrant a two-and-a-half-hour running time".[9]

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

Box office[edit]

The film earned US$63,095,253 in the US and $71 million internationally, totaling $134,095,253 worldwide.[12][13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Box Office Information for Scent of a Woman Archived 2013-06-28 at the Wayback Machine. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  2. ^ Fox, David J. (1993-01-25). "Pacino Gives Oscar Derby a New Twist : Awards: Actor wins Golden Globe for role in 'Scent of a Woman,' which also wins as best dramatic picture, surprising Academy Awards competitors". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
  3. ^ "A Sight for Sore Eyes". Newsweek. 29 March 1992. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
  4. ^ a b Brest, Martin (director) (2006). "Production notes". Scent of a Woman (DVD). United Kingdom: Universal Pictures (UK).
  5. ^ "Scent of a Woman". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2021-01-03.
  6. ^ Scent of a Woman at IMDb
  7. ^ Wells, Jeffrey (1993-01-03). "LENGTH OF 'A WOMAN' : Minutes, Shminutes--Does It Play?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
  8. ^ "Scent of a Woman". Variety. 1991-12-31. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
  9. ^ "Not A Season To Be Jolly". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
  10. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-14.
  11. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-14.
  12. ^ Fox, David J. (1992-12-29). "Weekend Box Office Holiday Take a Nice Gift for the Studios". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-14.
  13. ^ Fox, David J. (1993-01-26). "Weekend Box Office 'Aladdin's' Magic Carpet Ride". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  14. ^ Welkos, Robert W. (1993-02-02). "Weekend Box Office 'Sniper' Takes Aim at 'Aladdin'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-18.

External links[edit]