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About Schmidt (2002)

  Directed by: Alexander Payne
Written by: Louis Begley, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Starring: Kathy Bates, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Jack Nicholson
Links: About Schmidt on the IMDb, Official site, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy the Book, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 9.33 (3 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 10th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

About Schmidt (2002) is also mentioned in pearly's review of Sideways (2004) and mino's review of Something's Gotta Give (2003).

"Jack: well and truly back" - a review by mino

Over the years, it's become kind of standard to hang shit on Jack Nicholson. Sure, he had his day, but it was a long time ago: since then, he's become more and more worshipped as a Hollywood legend, without actually having a very good strike rate at all. He produces good movies, sure, but there's a lot of crap in between them nowadays. His insistence on playing roles as if he were still the smooth young stud that he wishes he was, instead of the creepy old stud he really is, has also been getting more and more laughable; of recent times, he's become almost a parody of himself, but just didn't seem to realise.

Then, along comes a movie like About Schmidt, which suddenly slaps you in the face with the simple fact of how damnably good an actor Jack Nicholson can be. If Nicholson's performance in About Schmidt, playing newly-retired actuary Warren Schmidt, isn't the most impressive thing he's done since One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), well, I'll go he.

Shortly after retirement, Warren's life is turned totally upside-down, and he embarks on a truly amazing personal journey. Warren learns a lot about himself, and Nicholson does an absolutely gobsmackingly good job at taking us along. Nicholson, instead of playing the devious lecher that he does so well, instead plays a sad, complex old man, and plays him to perfection.

I don't remember seeing a movie in a long, long, time which can (nearly simultaneously) make you feel happy, sad, angry, sympathetic, and much more; you really don't know whether to love Warren or hate him, to feel sorry for him or embarrassed by him, to feel angry for him or angry at him.

There's a fine supporting cast too, particularly the always-outrageous Kathy Bates, who once again absolutely lights up the screen the moment she appears on it.

It sounds weird to say it, but I think if you were trying to describe About Schmidt in terms of another movie, it's a kind of ‘Geriatric American Beauty (1999)’. A few times while watching Schmidt, I was struck by the similarities between both the eclectic and eventful journeys undertaken by both Warren Schmidt and Kevin Spacey's Lester Burnham, and also in the alternately lovable, intensely disagreeable, and truly wince-inducing nature of the two protagonists.

Like American Beauty has been for Spacey, About Schmidt may well turn out to be one of the defining moments of Jack Nicholson's career.

mino gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 21 Jan 2004

"Awesome" - a review by andy-j

About Schmidt is exactly that - it's about the journey of self-discovery that Warren Schmidt, a recently retired vice-president for a big insurance company, unknowingly takes when all that is central to his existence is taken from him. Faced with this, and the fact that his daughter Jeannie (played by Hope Davis)is about to marry a man whom Schmidt is less than impressed with, he decides it is up to him to talk some sense into Jeannie. Schmidt is an outwardly polite, but inwardly self-centred man, whose world and experiences are rather small. Having spent his married life suppressing his true feelings, Schmidt starts to learn what it is to experience emotion once again. The results inspire and, in many ways, surprise him, as he starts to come to terms with who he really is and what his life means.

Jack Nicholson plays Schmidt, and he doesn't disappoint. He has a solid understanding of his character, and brings him to life in many subtle ways - his facial expressions, his pauses, his posture, his tone - they all help to create a very real and believable (not to mention interesting) character. He is complex and deep, and Nicholson uses his talent and experience to bring him to life perfectly. Schmidt is so real that I could easily spend the rest of the review writing about his character. The film very much hangs on Nicholson's portrayal of Schmidt. Let's face it - About Schmidt wouldn't have worked with a lesser actor. Nicholson was the perfect choice.

Nicholson is supported by a very solid cast - notably Dermot Mulroney as Randall, Schmidt's soon-to-be son-in-law, and Kathy Bates as Roberta, his mother. As well as a top-notch cast, About Schmidt contains some very funny moments - some subtle (the Certificate of Attendance and the arrowhead museum) and some more obtuse (the waterbed scene, which had the predominantly-older audience in fits of laughter). Much of the credit of this great movie belongs to Alexander Payne's screenplay and direction. He successfully mixes the laughs with the drama, the heavy moments with the touching ones, all the while delivering a compelling and unique story that stands out a mile amongst much of the derivitive Hollywood nonsense of this day and age.

There are those who think Nicholson plays the same character in film after film - the notorious rough-around-the-edges but charming ladies man (much like the Jack Nicholson that is portrayed in the media). It unfortunately gives people the impression that Jack is only capable of playing one role. To these people I would say see About Schmidt - you'll be turned around by Nicholson's sensitive performance. About Schmidt is a touching, deep and very truthful film that I got a lot out of, and one that I will continue to enjoy in the future.

andy-j gives this movie 10 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 12 Jan 2004

"Just 'about' a masterpiece" - a review by em_fiction

I was quite keen on seeing About Schmidt for a while. Like Nicole mentioned with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), sometimes you have plans on seeing a film but never get around to seeing it, which was kind of like me and About Schmidt, but eventually, I did end up getting it out on video or else I wouldn't be writing this review.

I've read a lot of places that say that Warren R. Schmidt is the best character that Jack Nicholson has ever played and I can certainly see why. In my own opinion, I think the film would be much more absorbing if the audience had a blank knowledge of it prior to watching (like me). But, just really briefly, it's simply about a retired insurance worker who sets off on a journey to make up for things he may have lacked in his sixty-six year life.

Director Alexander Payne has brought us a unique film that is quite rewarding to watch. In comparison with Election (1999), the other film by Payne that I've seen, there are a lot of little idiosyncrasies that link the two films, such as the in-depth characterisation, the peculiar use of soundtrack to develop atmosphere (the way that the soundtrack is used, not the fact that it uses soundtrack, duh!) and general mellow pace. What is different about this film though, is the uplifting, dramatic yet comic and, quoting David Stratton, "painfully real" elements. A lot of the scenes are muted, leaving just atmospheric sound, particularly the very opening scene with the shuffled angles of the office building. My favourite scene has Warren sitting on the top of his Adventurer gazing at the stars floating in a scenic night sky. Despite carrying a sad, lonely, poignant overtone, these scenes are beautifully captured.

It truly does make sense that Jack Nicholson is in what I believe is his best performance ever. His extremely effective emotional expressions are almost too clear for words, and you stare in admiration at both the heart-rending narrative and Jack Nicholson's amazing acting abilities. He's also backed by a wonderful cast, including the lovely Hope Davis as his daughter who I recently enjoyed seeing in American Splendor (2003). Kathy Bates also has a wonderfully hysterical role, for which she earned a well-deserved Academy Award nomination. Speaking of Academy Awards, even though Jack Nicholson won a Golden Globe, I reckon he should've grabbed the Oscar as well.

About Schmidt is the most realistic, tragic and comical portrayal of ordinary life. I found it a very impressive, pleasant and moving experience.

em_fiction gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Sun 30 Nov 2003

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 3
Average rating: 9.33
Lowest rating: 9 (by mino, em_fiction)
Highest rating: 10 (by andy-j)
Rating Percentage

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