Scent of a Woman is a 1992 American drama directed and produced by Martin Brest that tells the story of a preparatory school student who takes a job as an assistant to an irascible, blind, medically retired Army officer. It stars Al Pacino, Chris O'Donnell, James Rebhorn, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Gabrielle Anwar. It is a remake of Dino Risi's 1974 Italian film Profumo di donna.
The film was adapted by Bo Goldman from the novel Il buio e il miele (Italian: Darkness and Honey) by Giovanni Arpino and from the 1974 screenplay by Ruggero Maccari and Dino Risi. It was directed by Martin Brest.
The film was shot primarily around New York state. Portions of the movie were filmed on location at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey; 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 an exclusive New England prep school. Unlike most of his peers, Charlie was not born to a wealthy family. To pay for a flight home to Oregon for Christmas, Charlie accepts a temporary job over Thanksgiving weekend looking after retired Army Ranger Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade, whom Charlie discovers to be a cantankerous blind alcoholic.
Charlie and George Willis, Jr., another student at the preparatory school, witness several students setting up a prank for the school's headmaster, Mr. Trask. Following the prank, Trask presses Charlie and George to divulge the names of the perpetrators. Trask offers Charlie a bribe, a letter of recommendation that would virtually guarantee his acceptance to Harvard. Charlie continues to remain silent but appears conflicted.
Shortly after Charlie arrives, Slade unexpectedly whisks Charlie off on a trip to New York City. Slade reserves a room at the Waldorf-Astoria. During dinner at the Oak Room Restaurant & Bar, Slade 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 Slade is serious.
They pay an uninvited surprise visit to Slade's brother's home in White Plains for Thanksgiving dinner. Slade is an unpleasant surprise for the family, as he deliberately provokes everyone and the night ends in acrimony. During this time the cause of Slade's blindness is also revealed.
As they return to New York, Charlie tells Slade about his complications at school. Slade advises Charlie to inform on his classmates and go to Harvard, warning him that George will probably be pressured into not maintaining silence. Later at a restaurant, Slade is aware of Donna, a young woman waiting for her date. Although blind, Slade 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, Slade responds to Charlie's suggestion that they test drive a Ferrari. Charlie lets Slade drive the car and Slade begins speeding, attracting the attention of a police officer (Ron Eldard), whom Slade manages to appease without giving away his blindness.
When they return to the hotel, Slade sends Charlie out on a list of errands. Charlie initially leaves the room but quickly becomes suspicious. Charlie returns to find Slade in his military uniform, preparing to commit suicide with a gun from which Charlie had made Slade promise to remove the bullets earlier, regarding which Slade states "I lied". Charlie intervenes and attempts to grab Slade's gun. Slade, however, easily overpowers him, threatening to shoot Charlie before himself. They enter a tense argument, with both struggling for the gun; however, after Charlie bravely calms Slade, Slade backs down.
The two return to New England. At school, Charlie and George are subjected to a formal inquiry in front of the student body and the student/faculty disciplinary committee. As headmaster Trask is opening the proceedings, Slade 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, and divulges the names of the perpetrators, qualifying that his vision wasn't clear. 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.
At this, Slade cannot contain himself and launches into a passionate speech defending Charlie and questioning the integrity of a system that rewards informing on classmates. He tells them that Charlie has shown integrity in his actions and insists the committee not expel him because this is what great leaders are made of, and promises he will make them proud in the future. The disciplinary committee decides to place on probation the students named by George, and to give George neither recognition nor commendation for his testimony. They excuse Charlie from any punishment and allow him to have no further involvement in the inquiries, to loud applause from the student body.
As Charlie escorts Slade to his limo, a female political science teacher, Christine Downes, who was part of the disciplinary committee, approaches Slade, commending him for his speech. Seeing a spark between them, Charlie tells Ms. Downes that Slade served on President Lyndon Johnson's staff. A romantic prospect is hinted between Slade and Ms. Downes as they part ways.
Charlie takes Slade home, where they go their separate ways. The colonel walks towards his house and greets his niece's young children happily as Charlie watches by the limo.
- Al Pacino as Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade
- Chris O'Donnell as Charlie Simms
- James Rebhorn as Mr. Trask
- Gabrielle Anwar as Donna
- Philip S. Hoffman as George Willis, Jr.
- Gene Canfield as Manny
- Richard Venture as William "W.R." Slade
- Bradley Whitford as Randy Slade
- June Squibb as Mrs. Hunsacker
- Frances Conroy as Christine Downes
- Rochelle Oliver as Gretchen Slade
- Tom Riis Farrell as Garry Slade
- Nicholas Sadler as Harry Havemeyer
- Todd Louiso as Trent Potter
- Ron Eldard as Officer Gore
- Sally Murphy as Karen Rossi
- Michael Feldman as Donny Rossi
- Julian Stein as Willie Rossi
- Max Stein as Willie Rossi
Scent of a Woman was filmed in the following locations:
- Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
- Dumbo, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
- Emma Willard School, 285 Pawling Avenue, Troy, New York, USA
- Hempstead House, Sands Point Preserve, 95 Middleneck Road, Port Washington, Long Island, New York, USA (school)
- Kaufman Astoria Studios, 3412 36th Street, Astoria, Queens, New York City, New York, USA (studio)
- Long Island, New York, USA
- Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
- Newark Liberty International Airport, Newark, NJ
- New York City, New York, USA
- Pierre Hotel, Fifth Avenue & 61st Street, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA (ballroom where Frank and Donna dance the tango)
- Port Washington, Long Island, New York, USA
- Prince's Bay, Staten Island, New York City, New York, USA
- Princeton, New Jersey, USA
- Queens, New York City, New York, USA
- Rockefeller College—Upper Madison Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA
- Staten Island, New York City, New York, USA
- The Oak Room, The Plaza Hotel, 5th Avenue, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA (where Frank and Charlie have dinner)
- Troy, New York, USA
- Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, 301 Park Avenue, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Scent of a Woman was released to a positive critical reception. The film holds a 88% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, and Metascore of 59 out of 100 based on 14 critic 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 believes that the "two-character conceit doesn't warrant a two-and-a-half-hour running time".
American Film Institute recognition:
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "Hoo-ah!" - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – Nominated
The film earned US$63,095,253 in the US and $71 million internationally, totaling $134,095,253 worldwide.