Warren Schmidt is forced to deal with an ambiguous future as he enters retirement. Soon after, his wife passes away and he must come to terms with his daughters marriage to a man he does not care for and the failure that his life has become.
Retirement can be a scary thing. I suppose it's about 40 years before Ihit retirement age (given that it's a moving target on the increase),but I do confess at times I think about it, a time where I presumablyhave the opportunity to do whatever I please - travel, read, and ofcourse watch more movies at discounted ticket prices, and so on, butwhether or not I will have the strength and energy to do so will be adifferent story, and more importantly, whether my retirement funds willbe sufficient to support a lifestyle I choose.Anyway I was surprised with About Schmidt. At first glance I thought itwas going to be a mundane movie, but it had plenty of heart, and manymoments of contemplation which actually made me ponder deeper aboutthose sunset times. Jack Nicholson plays Warren Schmidt, a VicePresident of an insurance company who retires at the start of thestory. Naturally it takes much getting used to, and with time on hishands, he thinks about the legacy, or the lack thereof, in which he isleaving behind.From not being appreciated by the younger generation taking over hisoffice, to trying to patch ties with his estranged daughter Jeannie(Hope Davis) who's about to get married to a blue collared "loser"Randall (Dermot Mulroney, note that I put that word in quotations,because I thought I'd become fast friends with people like that, thosewho are genuinely earnest), much against his wishes, here's a portraitof an extremely sad, lonely man trying to take stock of his life, wherelittle routine things suddenly become significant.The first half of the movie set the scene, before the second half takesus on a road trip of sorts, much like Broken Flowers or evenElizabethtown, during which Schmidt exhibits more of his insecuritiesand fear. Jack Nicholson did a superb job as usual fleshing out thecharacter of Warren, with the cinematography being tip top in bringingout the detachment he experiences with his environment. You can feelhis pain and wanting to belong, holding dear to treasures of his heart,especially his daughter. And to borrow these lines from his earliermovie, Jack's Warren Schmidt personifies "I'm only laughing on theoutside, my smile is just skin deep. but if you look inside I'm reallycrying, you might join me for a weep!" to a T.Based on a novel by Louis Begley and directed by Alexander Payne (whobrought us another road trip movie Sideways), one of the highlights ofthe movie is Warren's communication with an African child he adoptedlong distance. Through his letters, it becomes clear the issues he'sgrappling with, and some of the white lies he tells, which mirrors theway he lives his life. And I must say as much as movie endings areimportant, About Schmidt has one of the simplest, but most powerfulmessage it brings out, and that is while we worry about the legacy welive behind in the world for generations to come, sometimes it's notnecessary that it must be something monumental. The simplest gesture,straight from the heart, is all there is to make a difference, andstamp your mark.With an excellent waltz like theme for Warren Schmidt, and that shot ofEncyclopedia Brown (nostalgia! I read that as a kid!), I'd recommendAbout Schmidt anytime should anyone ask which recent Jack Nicolsonmovies one should watch. Be warned though, the Code 3 DVD is censored,especially those bits with Kathy Bates (I suspect for, erm, nudity).
The most interesting thing about this movie is that Jack Nicholsonactuallymakes an attempt at acting for the first time in years. It's true that Icaught Jack's patented eyebrow raise a couple of times (out of place, asusual, for the character) and he may have flashed his big ol' devilishsmileonce or twice (again, out of character). But for the most part, he didattempt to create a character for us, as opposed to giving us "JackNicholson on screen, ladies and gentlemen." Otherwise the film's mainattraction lies in its ethnographic portrait of lower-middle class life inthe provinces. (Strictly speaking, Schmidt had more income than alower-middle class person, but culturally and ideologically you'd have tolocate him and his daughter right smack in the middle of the wasteland ofthe lower-middle class.)
Dear Ndugu: I watched a very good film today called "About Schmidt". Imust say that it's one of the most original comedies of all time. Now,you may ask why am I saying this. Well, there are certain aspects thatI found that made this film successful. Of course there's the superbperformance of our dear old friend Jack Nicholson (I think it's one ofhis greatest roles along "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "TheShining"). Secondly, we have the good pace and rhythm that AlexanderPayne gives to the movie. Then we have an extraordinary screenplaybased on a great book. What else can yo ask from a film? I hope that,when you grow up, after having survived all those problems of theAfrican nations, you'll know how to appreciate movies like this, and Ihope this film maintains as a landmark on cinematic history. Sincerelyyours, David MuÃ±oz, your fan. P.S. My rating: ****1/2 out of 5
I found this movie to be boring. It seemed to drip on an on without much a plot line at all. Follows the life of a dull, depressed man, to whom nothing really interesting ever happens. I would only recommend this to people that enjoy movies that are dull, depressing and where nothing really happens.
I believe that talking about this movie would be meaningless. 'AboutSchmidt' is cinematic literature and nothing can be said to describeit.Just see it, embrace it, understand it.10/10
I had somewhat high hopes from the media buzz and recommendations fromfriends...all I can say is that it was slow, and took 3 sittings to getthrough it. I can appreciate the tone of the movie and what they were tryingto get across and the few quirky moments that could only be pulled off byNicholson. Otherwise, it's a play by play of the day of your average retiredperson. A movie "About" the boring, unfulfilled life of a retired widowerhas to give you a clue. I could watch it again if I were only fastforwarding to the good parts...Nicholson in the grocery store...at thewedding rehersal...that's about it.
Tale of Midwestern late-life angst is a triumph for star Jack Nicholson -- but a step back for co-writer/director Alexander Payne.
A movie that alternates between moments of clever wit and greatpoignancy. As I watched, I kept thinking of Thoreau's line about themass of men leading lives of quiet desperation. Poor old Schmidt hitsretirement and comes to grips with the fact that life doesn't alwaysturn out according to plan. All he wants is to find something inhimself that will be significant and lasting. An unwelcome retirementand the even more unwelcome marriage of his daughter to a loserunderline his sense of powerlessness and frustration. The subplot ofhis developing relationship with a foster child in Africa yields somewonderfully incongruous moments. Great performances by Nicholson, HopeDavis and Dermot Mulroney.
ABOUT SCHMIDT (2002) **** Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney,KathyBates, June Squibb, Howard Hesseman, Len Cariou. Nicholson gives a careerhigh performance as Warren Schmidt, a recently retired life insuranceactuary from Omaha, Nebraska who comes to an emotional crossroads in hislife when his wife suddenly dies and his only daughter is about to marry acomplete moron. Schmidt seeks some meaning for his existence and goes onaliteral and metaphorical road trip, Winnebago at the helm, across Americaashe ventures to the wedding ceremony accruing while realizing that lifewillalways take care of itself even if one doesn't know what will become ofthemselves (no truer thought has ever been realized quite comically norclearly as it does here). Filmmaker Alexander Payne (who adapted LouisBegley's novel with his longtime collaborator Jim Taylor) shrewdly mixesthemundane with the meaningful in an acrid slice of Americana that threatenstocurdle as it nurtures along its merrily demented way. Nicholson smartlydownplays the easily caricatured character it could've been by ditchinghiswaycool persona and physically resembles a shrugged shoulder replete withbad combover and easily to his 12th Academy Award nomination and possibly4th win. Immersing himself wholeheartedly and - who expected, quitepoignantly - brilliantly; one of the finest interpretations ever displayedin cinematic history (and that's saying something for this icon's canon offilm work!) Bates is a riot as his in-law to be who has no qualms aboutherself - a complete 180 from Nicholson's impression - and Mulroney letsthemullet do all the work smartly. Davis manages the tightrope of gooddaughter and angry child within allowing her character's seams to show ather worst and deep down loves her estranged father. So far the year's bestfilm and one I can humbly add has my surname in the title!
The fact that an outstanding actor is playing in a movie, by no means,equals automatically a good movie.... I consider this movie as a real lemon,period. By the way, I do consider myself as a Nicholson's fan to boot...
This is a revision from a politician's statement that perfectlydescribes Jack Nicholson's state in mind in "About Schmidt", while hecontemplates all his achievements.The film opens in a Midwest town like so many other towns, in abuilding, like so many other buildings. A man is sitting in an emptiedroom and in one of the most depressingly suspenseful moments, he staresat the clock, beholding the last seconds of his job. We're in Omaha,Nebraska, in the Woodmen of the World insurance company, and WarrenSchmidt, 66 years old, is retiring.The clock hits five but time doesn't stop for all that, the ticklinggoes on while he just gets up, turn off the lights and leaves the room.In the same anticlimactic spirit, he's enduring with a severe patiencethe retirement dinner and the hypocritical speech from the new actuarywho just moved up with wife and child, but ultimately, he comes backhome, it's a rainy night, his wife Helen talks with Jeannie, theirsoon-to-be married daughter and that's that: Warren has just ceased tobe the 'star of the day'. He wakes up in the morning, Helen made him asurprise with the breakfast in their new Winnebago adventurer, but justlike Warren, we're wondering: what next?"About Schmidt" opens with contemplative moments, and the editing spareon ellipses allows us to witness Warren's existential dead end, whichcould be ours. We all want to have good jobs, to run successful lives,with minimum of wealth, to raise a family, but what when all of thesedreams are fulfilled? Like Warren, the risk is to take them for granteduntil retirement comes as a shock therapy, finally hitting with a boltof lucidity. Warren realizes how much he's estranged to his wife, howsome habits on her became unbearable, and much more than this, how dulland boring his life is. He dreamed of being one of these admiredleaders, but could he even lead his own life? A visit in his officereveals how useless he became, the new actuary doesn't have time, andhis belongings are sent to the garbage collector. Warren is alreadyhistory.It's just as if "About Schmidt" was emphasizing Ferris Buller's wisewords: "Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once ina while, you could miss it." What exactly did Warren miss? Probably thepoint of life, the purpose of everything he built his dreams andambitions on, he didn't live, but let himself embarked in an illusionof comfort, as if he was baking the very pie that was thrown at hisface. A light of hope though, comes with an advertisement for a fosterprogram for Children in Africa, Warren sponsors a little African boynamed N'Dugu, sending him money and letters where he can finallyexpress his thoughts and vent his anger. The letters work as great plotdevices because they give Warren a sort of reason to exist, by beinghelpful, and enlighten us on his most intimate feelings without aclichÃ© voice-over.Yet the real turning point comes with the sudden death of Helen, from ablood clot in the brain. Warren's routine is finally broken, for betteror for worse but Alexander Payne's tone is so delightfully cynical wesuspect this death would be a 'blessing', maybe not for Warren but forus viewers who'll finally see him taking some action. After all, Helenwas less depicted as the loving wife than the stranger who asked him tosit while urinating. And after weeks of depression, when he discoversthat Helen cheated on him with his best friend, the sight of Warrenstanding up to urinate is our relief. We know something has changed,and are eager to follow Warren in his road trip through the Midwestaboard the Adventurer. Many Jack Nicholson's films invited us to a conscience-examiningroad-trip like "Easy Rider", "Five Easy Pieces" or "The Last Detail".If Warren doesn't exactly know what he's pursuing, he knows what he'sescaping from, a bit like the Americans pioneers, to which some visitedhistorical places paid tribute. He tries to give a meaning to his life,to be useful for the only person who still counts. Some hilariousmoments during the funeral showed how Warren was reluctant to the ideaof Jeannie marrying Randall, a water-bed salesman from Denver, the kindwho tries to recycle his pyramid scheme learning, an authentic schmuckplayed by Dermot Mulroney, and his family doesn't improve the picture,although it's highlighted by a wonderful breakthrough performance byKathy Bates, as Randall's free-spirited, sexual and sensual mother.Warren Schmidt's arc is an evolution from a passive to an activecharacter, the film avoids those clichÃ©s, because as active as he was,he finally had to compromise to the idea of the wedding, give a warmspeech to people he personally despised and get back home at the end,after all, he's not a pioneer. It's about a man trying to look at theright side of life, if not the bright, giving it a direction that wouldhelp him to end his life the best way. It all comes to an end, so let'slive what's left to the fullest. It's a mix of hope and sadness, acocktail of pessimism and optimism. Either I'm happy because I ONLYhave 10 years to live or because I STILL have 10 years to live. It's awhole mindset to build and that the last letter finally gives the firstbricks, and Warren's happiness is absolutely communicative.Nicholson dilutes his usual character in this witty and meaningfulcomedy-drama, written and directed by Alexander Payne, without theusual magnetism but with a unique capability to communicate his innerfeelings, as in the unforgettable last shot. Nicholson delivers one ofhis best performances, and if it ever was last to be Oscar-nominated,it couldn't have been a better one.
This is an accurately rendered story about a weak, boring man whorealizesthat his life doesn't matter. Unfortunately, the result is a weak, boringmovie whose story doesn't matter, either. Even great actors can't managetobreath any life into these pathetic characters.
I gotta say this has been quite a movie. Very funny and at the same time, sad. You have gotta watch this one.
having heard much about this film due to oscar nominations etc, i wassureit was worth of at least one viewing. the most decisive factor of coursewould have to be that jack nicholson was warren schmidt.this in mind it was hard not to play every other character off jacknicholson. the events and the way in which things transpire, left me intheposition of not knowing whether to laugh or cry...example..when warrenfirstdecides to foster ndugu is a significant tear jerking moment but thenwhatreally throws the audience is the nature of the first letter which warrensends ndugu relating all the frustrating things in his life. the use ofndugu as a medium for warren to explore and get to know himself is aninteresting idea. ndugu as a silent witness contrasts very much tocharacters such as Randall and Roberta Hertzel-roberta who isfantasticallyportrayed by kathy bates and had me laughing out loud in the cinema! ithinkthe audience can share warren's frustrations with randall and to anextenthis daughter. where his daughter is concerned, it is not evidently clearhow much a art warren ahs played in his daughters life....brief outburtsbyjeannie crying that its too late for him to take an interest conflictswihhis high opinion of his daughter and the pedestal he puts her on.his journey, which is more about opening his eyes than anything else isfullof pathos and humour. overall a fantastic film and jack nicholson i feeltruly did deserve that oscar nomination, the only quibble would have tobethe opening scenes which i think are more to do with direction thanactingbut fail to sustain interest.the woodmen tower block is not veryappealingout to traffic noises but thi is later resolved when we see jacknicholsonin full swing in retirement.
(warning: minor spoiler within) I found this to be an honest film...revealing in its approach at displaying the inner, hidden thoughts thatweall have at life's oddities as they appear from our unique perspective.Allin all I could not help but be reminded of the Old Testament book ofEcclesiastes, a book that might just as easily been named "Solomon'smidlifecrisis", wherein Solomon laments the meaninglessness of life. For Solomonthe conclusion was that without God, nothing makes sense. For Schmidt,theend scene reveals his minor sense of accomplishment in finally making adifference in someones life (the African boy). I very much enjoyed JackNicholson's portrayal of this character. I believe that he was truly abletoexpress the hidden thoughts of this empty man. The nudity was not at allnecessary in this film as we clearly understood the eccentricities ofKathyBates character (Roberta Hertzel) but I guess that present day's movieculture feels that some sort of nude scene must be included in order tocomplete the film (go figure). Otherwise, a good film but not for thosewhose only motive for watching movies is sensory titillation. This movierequires patience to enjoy and the ability to be somewhat introspective.
This movie tells the story of how a 66-year old man, Jack Nicholson,triesto come to terms with his lifelong disappointments. Having retired fromhisactuary position, he feels forced to start analyzing himself and dealwithhis frustrations regarding his wife, daughter, and even his previousjob.Jack Nicholson depicts a non-charismatic Warren Schmidt, who has spenthislife phasing out his ambitions and giving into his weaknesses. Only whenalone and not needed, does Mr. Schmidt realize how little he has left tolose and has the courage to admit and accept his errors. Yet, peoplearoundhim are just as obnoxious and selfish and little does happen throughoutthemovie to suggest that Warren would ever be given more than what healreadyhas. He lives in his own little world and take pleasure in little things.The end only brings him to finally accept his fate.
First of all, this movie is very, very funny. People who have convincedthemselves that this movie is sad or tragic are taking it way, way tooseriously and missing the point, and more importantly not gettingdirector Alex Payne's humor. This movie, much like Payne's first movie"Citizen Ruth" (which is totally awesome), is fearless in taking aserious topic and then crafting a very funny movie around it. The magicof "About Schmidt" is that Jack Nicholson IS Warren Schmidt (the maincharacter) in this movie. It is a substantially excellent performanceby Nicholson. Hope Davis (as Warren Schmidt's daughter) is also in topform. What this movie is about is a man who has always led a safe,predictable life, and then upon retirement ventures out for the firsttime in his life, only to be met by a world of odd places and aplethora of odd people. He is out of place, yes, and yet he realizesthis, but also it is obvious that he is at peace with this. I reallyloved the subtlety of this movie and the way it takes a very funny lookat how our lives turn out in often unexpected ways. Payne's characters,as always, do not disappoint when it comes to comedic value.
Folks: As one of his critics, way back when I surmised he was, at best,second=rate, and, at worst, not quite that, I find this ego-trip aboutas bemusing, forget enlightening, as a yawn in the mirror in themorning. Masterpiece? Of what? Of self-indulgence and self=service?From the git-go, this sorry excuse for one man's search for the selfthat never existed, much less lived, is unlikely, if not quitepossible. What manner of "man" would indite such banalities to anadoptee in the African bush, said adoptee all of age SIX? From thatpoint on, every frame of this self-indulgent flick is less thanentertaining, all those close-ups and winkings and blinkings. And theformulaic approach to a script, forget "plot," is as endearing as onemore exercise in Gollywood gleanings of box office unworthiness. Sorry,folks, I prefer the Nicholson of Heeerrreee's, Johnny. and earlieressays than this auperannuated expression of senior angst. Well, he WASbetter than usual as "Eugene O'Neill" in "Reds." And what's "Oscar" gotto do with this? eugene IO'Neill in reds/
A road trip of self-discovery, by turns hilarious and poignant, for a man unexpectedly at odds with the tiny world he has so laboriously made.
"About Schmidt" is a hostility-provoking film for the same reason that American citizens have lost their civil rights. The picture endorses, nay lionizes, complacency, inaction and the privilege of the greedy to steal whatever they covet simply because th