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About Schmidt (2002)

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, more...
Director: Alexander Payne, Alexander Payne
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Studio: New Line Home Video
Genre: Drama, Black Comedy
Running Time: 124 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
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Jack Nicholson plays retiring insurance actuary Warren Schmidt in Alexander Payne's About Schmidt. Schmidt has settled into a dormant life. He has an unfulfilling marriage to Helen (June Squibb), and conspires to spend as much time away from her as possible. Schmidt's daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) is engaged to Randall Hertzel (Dermot Mulroney), a man Schmidt believes is entirely unworthy of his daughter. When Helen unexpectedly dies, Warren is adrift until he discovers old love letters sent to his wife from his best friend. This inspires Warren to make a valiant effort to stop his daughter's wedding. His plans start to go awry when he meets Randall's extroverted mother, Roberta (Kathy Bates). About Schmidt was screened at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival where many were surprised that Nicholson did not take home the Best Actor award. ~ Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide

You might also enjoy:
Citizen Ruth
Alexander Payne's first film introduced the world to his uniquely Midwestern take on things; daring black comedy

The Last Detail
A more spry, younger Jack goes on a road trip in this 70s classic

Terms of Endearment
Jack garnered a Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as a retired astronaut in this two-hanky family drama

GreenCine Member Reviews

Turns out...I don't give a sh** About Schmidt by jmwagner66 January 27, 2012 - 5:16 PM PST
I saw this movie in a theater. If it hadn't been a 2$ matinee with free popcorn and 100degrees outside, I would have left. Instead I sat through this dog. Wow. Kathy Bates provides a breath of fresh air but her few scenes can't pull this one back up. It's dull. It's dark and it's drab. Perhaps if I were an actual aging, aging curmudgeons would hate that guy too. It wasn't even funny-bad. Just dull. And I like early Bergman films. I know from dull.

Nicholson at his best by mkaliher2 April 15, 2011 - 11:07 PM PDT
So many have submitted their responses to this truly exceptional slice of Americana, I'll keep my reaction brief. If you've ever wondered, as I have, whether Jack Nicholson can really act--or whether he's been riding for decades on his celebrity from Easy Rider, and his middling, yet overrated performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest--this film will definitively answer your question. This film has to be one of the best American films ever made, and Nicholson's performance is, quite simply, outstanding. If you haven't seen it, by all means check it out.

road trip in retirement by NBrown2 July 5, 2006 - 1:15 AM PDT
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
About Schmidt is summed up by an early scene in which an emotional old pal of Schmidt's says that the esteem in which a person is held and his connection to his friends are the measure of his success, not a bunch of gifts or a fancy dinner, which "don't mean a goddamn thing." Trouble is, Schmidt is the most emotionally detached, least self-aware person in the room. Even the young go-getter who moves into his old office, a politically savvy, patronizing figure, is in better touch with his feelings.

The role calls for Nicholson's familiar anger and venom to be largely repressed, except for those occasions when, in the course of writing long letters to a child he has impulsively sponsored through a global charity, his voiceover dictation swerves into resentful diatribes Schmidt can only dream of voicing out loud. He also makes desperate last-minute entreaties to his daughter to re-think her choice of husband. However, this is not as bleak as it may sound, and although dealings with his daughter (an excellent Hope Davis) are fractious, welcome humor is found in his son-in-law-to-be (Dermot Mulroney) and the sexually aggressive mother of said future son-in-law (Kathy Bates). Although Schmidt is made frantic by his daughter's fiancee, a doofus of a waterbed salesman, he somehow manages to maintain a sense of Midwestern decorum when it counts, to his credit.

Nicholson's satisfying portrayal is nuanced enough that it appears even Schmidt does not quite know if he can make an awkward peace with a situation he is powerless to stop, or whether he may be on a path to realizing unconditional familial love. Although the movie is about the possibility of finding redemption towards the end of an unexpectedly sad life, the Midwest does not come through unscathed.

While the secondary characters portrayed are not flattering, the film is not quite as satirical in approach as Election, also by director Alexander Payne.

It is interesting that another reviewer was reminded of Being There, about a profoundly simple man, played by Peter Sellars. In that earlier movie, a piece of music by Erik Satie (a gnosienne, No. 4) conveyed a feeling of autumnal sadness, and it is also used (quite well) here. The plot of Being There also concerned a detached main character setting out into the world from a home that has just lost what little vitality it had. Aside from these similarities, About Schmidt is its own story, albeit one that has been adapted from a darker but worthwhile novel by Louis Begley.

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GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.45)
367 Votes
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Cannes Film Festival & More - 2002
Official Selection, Certain Regards... and more. Here is a bit more information on the films screened at the Cannes. I have attempted to list all the films that were considered for an award as well as any special screenings.
A List of Good Movies

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