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About Schmidt /

Rated: R

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Kathy Bates, Howard Hesseman

Directed by: Alexander Payne

Produced by: Harry Gittes, Michael Besman

Written by: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

Distributor: New Line Cinema


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Movie Image
Movie Image

     About Schmidt combines irony and depression to make comedy. This is a powerful and effective drama, with unbelievably real characters. On the surface, the material tickles our funny bone. But when looking deeper, it has a story so close to home, we can actually learn from it. Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates give killer performances, and make this a deeply moving film about self-discovery. This is a movie that centers around independence, and how it affects us for better, and for worse. It was hard to for me decide whether to give it four buckets or not, but it is just cocky enough in its execution to for me to give it three-and-a-half. It gets a tiny bit too silly at times, but touches us; regardless. This is one of the better dramas of the year, and even with a low budget; it showcases some of the best talent on earth.

     Warren R. Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) is a man who is bored by life. He is retired, and hates it. This is because of two things. One: a young and know-it-all business man stole his job, and has no questions to ask him about the position. Two: now he has to stay home all day, and keep up with the constant annoyances of his wife, Eleanor. His daughter, Jeanie (Hope Davis), lives in Denver with her fiancť, Randall Hertzel (Dermont Mulroney). Warren is not fond of Randall, and thinks that his daughter couldíve found a better husband. Randall is a waterbed salesman, and has an eccentric family full of hippies. According to Warren, he really has nothing to live for. At 66, he will most likely die sometime in the next 9 years (sighted from studies). What will cheer him up? Should he somehow force his daughter not to marry Randall? Should he find some sort of enjoyable hobby to help him cope with his ongoing depression? The direction that his life is moving in takes a drastic turn when Eleanor dies of a blood clot. How will it affect the people around him? How will their new outlook affect him? Only time will tell.

     I liked the unique narrative pieces, done by Nicholson, which are sporadically placed throughout the film. They are readings of various letters that he sends to a child named Ndugu. This is a child that he sponsors, through an organization. Ndugu is from Tanzania, and lives on the 22 dollars that Warren sends him every month. He sends letters along with the checks, to have a sense of communication with Ndugu; even though the boy canít read or write in English. Warren avidly mouths off about his many problems in the letters, and speaks quite candidly. There are several bits of humor that come along with the reading of these. There are clever lines that Nicholson voices with wit and drama. All aspects of this film are incredibly stretched, but the things that happen in it happen everyday, in real life. It helps remind us how many nutty people there are on the planet. This is a movie with moral lessons, and values. The dialogue can be quite explicit at times, but it is definitely something that all viewers, of all age should see. 

     About Schmidt is definitely one of the most powerful movies of the year. It is also, undoubtedly, one of the best. Everything aspect of it, is perfect, from the direction to the production. But, upon reflection, I canít say that it is four bucket material. All of the dialogue is thoughtful, and entertains and touches us at the same time. Jack Nicholson is excellent as Warren Schmidt, and Kathy Bates captures the spirit of a character I have not introduced; Randallís mother. Once again, the Holidayís have brought us another incredible movie. There were generally favorable responses from the other audience members who saw it with me, and the show was sold out (Friday, 5:05). Mr. Nicholson obviously still has the power to attract as many audiences as he used to. About Schmidt is like The Good Girl in the way that operates. It has just enough comedy to make us not feel overblown by its depressing side. This film and that film will ultimately be competing for the number ten spot on my yearly top ten list.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews


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