Like you I just saw As Good As It Gets once in 1997 and not again until the other night.
Like you there were things I did not get the first time that tolled loudly the second time.
Unlike you, I was 40 when I saw it the first time.
In 1997 the performances, particularly Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, and Greg Kinnear, rang loud and strong. I was not surprised in the least that Jack and Helen won Oscars for their wonderful portrayals, and wondered why Greg Kinnear didn't win anything.
I was surprised that it won Best Picture because the movie, at the time, didn't work for me as a whole. As a Romantic Comedy it didn't completely work for me because I didn't get the Happily-Ever-After feel at the end of the movie. Though Melvin is greatly improved, even, as you mentioned, forgetting to lock the door 5 times, and even deliberately stepping on the crack, I didn't see him "cured." Even though Carol is more accepting of his fewer and fewer misanthropic slip-ups, I didn't get the feeling that she would be completely accepting of him as an obsessive-compulsive misanthrope.
I didn't get the happy ending in 1997, and that disappointed me.
That was the point I didn't catch until the other night. It wasn't a happy ending. It was a happy beginning.
The movie, then, is not a Romantic Comedy. It's a movie of the redemption of four people: Melvin, Carol, Simon, and ... yes, Spencer too.
All four get another chance thanks to . . . Verdell? Yes, Verdell is the catalyst of the story.
This movie has as much in common with A Christmas Carol as with any Romantic Comedy you can mention. That was what I missed in 1997.
That is where I caught it just the other night, and was delighted that I did.
If I had any criticism, I would love to have had just one thing (other than the hitting the hands when he missed the notes playing piano) of what made Melvin a misanthrope who wrote 62 romance novels?
I get that it happens. In the history of music, Johannes Brahms was known in his own time as a "grouch," yet he wrote amazingly romantic music. Stravinski described Sergei Rachmaninoff as "a six and a half foot scowl," yet Rachmaninoff's music is heartbreakingly romantic.
It's the why I wanted.
I won't ding it much for that, though.
My favorite line of all of the great lines was in the psychiatrist's office. "How can you diagnose someone as having obsessive-compulsive disorder and yet criticize him for not making an appointment?"
Like you, I give it a 9 out of 10.