Moviegoers weigh in on 1997's holiday hits from Titanic to Jackie Brown

It should come as no surprise that Titanic had everyone talking during the holidays. The Most Expensive Movie Ever Made had already been talked about for over a year, and once it opened (to an enormous $88 million in its first 10 days), anyone who had stood in line and come up with a thumbs-up-or-down verdict became a hot Christmas-party commodity. (And no one had to worry one bit about giving the ending away.) But Titanic wasn’t the only film generating buzz over the holidays. What follows are the current movie season’s most discussed moments of agony, ecstasy, catharsis, controversy, and catastrophe.


”I cried all the way through it,” said Lindsay Johnson, 14, as she departed the Plainview, Tex., theater where Titanic had just unreeled on Christmas eve. But her undoing reached flood proportions during an emotionally climactic moment between Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in the icy Atlantic at the end of the film. Her tear ducts—like those of many other women we spoke to—had already been primed by the doomed Irish woman in steerage bravely telling a bedtime story to her unknowing children, and the elderly first-class couple spooning on their bed as water poured across their floor. And when she came to that final DiCaprio-Winslet scene…not to give too much away, but when it comes to pulling strings, James Cameron’s water works.


”It’s not your fault!” says a psychotherapist (Robin Williams), thereby absolving an angry young genius (Matt Damon) damaged by paternal abuse in Good Will Hunting, a film that’s shaping up to be the most effective male weepy since Jerry Maguire. ”That was the scene that really got me,” says Manhattanite Fred Nelson, 33, president of Civilization magazine. ”I’d say the movie is really a guilty pleasure, but I sobbed during the last half hour.” He’s not alone. During a press screening in December, a cynical, twentysomething male CBS news producer broke down during the film no less than seven times.


Venting her frustration over the health maintenance organizations (HMOs) that have neglected her severely asthmatic son, As Good as It Gets‘ single mom Helen Hunt rattles off one hilariously unprintable F-word-punctuated diatribe that has audiences erupting in applause. Anyone with an HMO gripe is simply mad about Hunt’s speech. ”I had no idea it would get such a reaction,” says the actress. ”They may turn me away if I ever show up in an emergency room.”


Spike Lee took Jackie Brown‘s writer-director, Quentin Tarantino, to task for Jackie‘s generous use of the N-word (it’s uttered 38 times by Samuel L. Jackson’s badass drug runner Ordell Robbie). ”What does he [Tarantino] want to be made—an honorary black man?” queried an offended Lee. The African-American moviegoers we spoke to tended to agree, but were more forgiving. ”There were a couple too many ‘niggers’ used in the film for me,” said one woman outside a New York City theater, ”but other than that I think it was good.”