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Overall Rating
3.42

Awesome: 18.49%
Worth A Look34.93%
Average: 22.6%
Pretty Bad: 17.81%
Total Crap: 6.16%

11 reviews, 80 user ratings


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About Schmidt
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by wintermute

"The cowards never left home, the weak died along the way."
2 stars

I was surrounded by the middle-aged as I hunkered down in my second row seat at the Sunday matinee showing of About Schmidt, a true testament to the lure of afternoon movies and Oscar-buzz. It had worked on me too - not the Oscar-buzz but the promise of sightly cheaper ticket prices and hot older women. Cougar Attack!

Just kidding. Actually, my roommate, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and cinema-related anecdotes, had been interested in this film for a few weeks, and I too was curious to see an older, saggy Jack Nicholson, preferably a Nicholson who didn't turn into a werewolf at any point in the story.

Well, I wasn't disappointed in that department, because except for a brief exhibition of an older saggy Kathy Bates, the film is replete with weird Uncle Jack and his wrinkly wrinkly face. However, the story has less to do with his character's senior citizendom than it does about waiting. Specifically, a man who spends all of his time in anticipation of what happens next, only to arrive at a point in his life where nothing happens next.

The film opens with Warren Schmidt waiting patiently at the desk of his cleared out office, watching the clock tick off the final seconds of his career without a hint of exasperation or tedium. The retirement party that follows is endured with the same semi-detached, polite attention, as Warren's co-workers laud him while simultaneously demonstrating how the corporate world never pauses as a result of the departure of one of its members. From this point, it is clear that Schmidt has always been a spectator, never a participant in his uneventful life. That his wife has gradually assumed control over his daily routine and interactions with others is underlined by his behaviour after her death (whoops, spoiler). He becomes a mindless automaton, a robot who's brain has never been able to do more than mimic the motions of everyday life. As his household falls apart around him, Warren returns to that which he knows best - waiting. He sits in front of the tv for hours, he eagerly watches his daughter prepare him a sandwich upon her return for her mother's funeral; and when one day in his recliner he realizes that for him, the next event on his own personal timeline is his own personal death, he decides to put something between that and his present. Specifically, his daughter's wedding.

Now, none of this is even close to as interesting as it sounds. While Nicholson does give us a few laughs in his candid letters to his African foster child, on the whole Schmidt comes across as an old stuffed toy that was given to you as a child by a distant relative, and sat on a shelf in your bedroom unloved and decrepit. His wife, played by June Squibb is instantly forgettable, as is the vanilla, tv drama portrayal of Jeannie Schmidt by Hope Davis. In fact, the two most interesting characters are Dermot Mulroney as Randall, the suitor Schmidt despises, and his mother, played by the aforementioned Bates. I find it odd that although the film tries it's best to illustrate why we should dislike Randall as strongly as his future father-in-law does, it appeared to have the reverse effect on me - with every goofy wisecrack or awkward attempt at bonding, I could detect a healthy undertone of sincerity and general kindness from the mullet-bearing mustachioed Romeo. Reminding me of nothing more than a big-hearted Kyle Petty, Randall won me over.

But you know what? This movie isn't called 'About Randall'. It's called About Schmidt, and it just doesn't deliver. I could walk on to any campground in the United States and certainly find home travel movies with more structure than Schmidt's random Winnebago wanderings, and certainly more than a few with genuine emotional resonance. Shooting stars and sliding candles don't do much more than make me wince and hope for something more.

The buzz was there, but the bee's nest was empty. No bees, no honey, no nothing, just a big lump of wax. And while an empty bee's nest is usually a good thing, in this case, being bored was much worse than being repeatedly stung.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6456&reviewer=321
originally posted: 01/08/03 07:21:46
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User Comments

6/22/15 David Hollingsworth A darkly funny, depressing, but brilliant movie 5 stars
6/17/11 Quigley Nicholson reveals again that he is an artist, an artist that few can match. Great film. 5 stars
5/19/11 Anonymous Surprisingly very entertaining and original 4 stars
4/27/10 PAUL SHORTT DARK COMIC LOOK AT OLD AGE WITH SOME GOOD PERFORMANCES 4 stars
7/26/09 the dork knight A drab, depressing portrait. Yes, the last scene is nice. 3 stars
7/14/09 faiche13 Not terribly exciting but yeah, I cried 3 stars
9/15/07 Alyssa Hale Jack did his best with what he had to work with, I guess. 3 stars
6/30/06 MP Bartley Nicholson should really be polishing his fourth oscar now. Warm, witty and poignant. 4 stars
6/22/06 TB He was just lonely old man 5 stars
12/12/05 Bad Critic Really overall just average. I expected more from Payne. 3 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Nicholson is a blessing. See this film and everything else Payne has done. 4 stars
10/05/05 Jesse Taylor Such a memorable movie. Nicholson is perfect. 5 stars
9/20/05 sbpat21 Perfect 5 stars
9/13/05 ray mero Never saw an over the hill business guy as freakish as Nicholson in this flick. 2 stars
8/07/05 Indrid Cold Is it just me, or is Alexander Payne the most reliable director of 21st century? 4 stars
8/01/05 Beth Kerrick Surprisingly entertaining, dry humor. Loved the letter to the orphan!! 4 stars
7/25/05 DM Slow but very well-acted. Great last scene. 4 stars
7/24/05 Carolyn Rathburn It was an alright movie, loved Kathy Bates courage. 4 stars
7/17/05 Charlene Javier Brilliant Jack. Brilliant film. 5 stars
7/05/05 R.W. Welch Sardonic look at retirement. Expertly acted, often funny. Often sad. 4 stars
2/06/05 Jeff Anderson Forget the godawful ANGER MANAGEMENT, this is & will always be Nicholson's finest work!!!!! 5 stars
2/02/05 BobbysRedQueen Jack's writing to his sponsered child was funny ! 4 stars
12/08/04 frosty Definitely a "thinky" movie. Good, though. 4 stars
10/22/04 T good God boring. cannot get all the way thru it. 2 stars
10/17/04 Miles Morley If you like full frontals of old women, this flicks yours! What a boring piece of... 1 stars
10/17/04 kitfo1 for once, Jack Nicholson acts, instead of just being Jack Nicholson 4 stars
10/17/04 Charlene Javier Bravo! 5 stars
9/29/04 Steve Newman disappointed - wont ever watch again 3 stars
9/26/04 Mel Gibson's Boyfriend Kathy Bates makes even crap like this almost tolerable 3 stars
9/04/04 T.B. It funny how he write about his job 4 stars
8/31/04 Pinkline Jones Not one of Jack's better films - ok 3 stars
7/16/04 Recurring Dream made me seriously think about what 'life' all adds up to in the end(?)...and i laughed too. 4 stars
7/05/04 Bruce Depressing and Boring. Wished he would just end it all. 2 stars
4/25/04 Carla boring, hardly funny 2 stars
2/15/04 beard its damn funny. BUT IT ISN'T 4 stars
1/29/04 chris. might be slow, but a great character study 4 stars
1/21/04 Betty White Brilliant, sad film with Nicholson & Bates tour-de-forces. 5 stars
10/17/03 Josh Standlee Pretty funny, yet I still miss Jack Nicholson as Jack Torance! 3 stars
10/03/03 the Grinch If you left it, you missed the payoff...cinematically uncomfortable, but very good 4 stars
8/14/03 Kooler Sly, subtle, brilliantly shot. Incredibly sad. 5 stars
8/13/03 Nancy295 Interesting but once was enough. 3 stars
8/05/03 Dark Barøn Touching. I've got to get a life before I become like Schmidt. 5 stars
7/09/03 6th Sense Slow moving and overrated! 2 stars
7/09/03 Roy Absolutely horrible. Not funny, not dramatic, just plain horrible. 1 stars
6/21/03 joker-smoker-toker blah! worste jack nicholson movie period! 1 stars
6/17/03 Erin I left in the middle I thought it was so stupid.Maybe I missed the good stuff if any 1 stars
6/12/03 Allen But did we have to see Kathy Bates undressed? Uuuulllllghhhhh!!!!!! 5 stars
6/10/03 Jack Bourbon Wow! What an ending. 5 stars
6/09/03 The Chronic Love Nicholson!! Whats not to like about the movie. 5 stars
4/10/03 Tam A slightly depressing film with an anti-climax of an ending, but Nicholson & Bates were gr8 3 stars
3/23/03 Winthrop J Applesmythe III hey, reviewer: it's (NNN-DOO-GOO) 4 stars
3/12/03 James Renwick Disappointing. Its as simple as that 2 stars
3/03/03 Eschenennock Manville Good interest-keeper for a film with anti-climactic ending. 4 stars
3/01/03 matt disappointing 2 stars
2/22/03 Jim the movie geek The depresssing bits probably won out over the uplifting bits. Jack was great. 4 stars
2/21/03 A. Kane Jack's great. A good low-key, subversive film. 4 stars
2/20/03 catatafish I kept waiting for Jack to lose it in typical Jack style and was angry when he didn't 3 stars
2/15/03 John Bale A gentle comedy about families and aging. Nicholson's top performance 5 stars
2/14/03 Andrew Carden Great Performances By Bates and Nicholson Light Up The Film 5 stars
2/13/03 r. dassow about shmidt is about shit 2 stars
2/13/03 mattski just too shapeless although the ending may well be secretly cynical in an awesome way 3 stars
2/10/03 Greyjack Two stars if you go to movies purely for escapism, five if you dig poignant character films 5 stars
2/09/03 jeffreyman Bergmanesque with laughs 5 stars
2/08/03 mr. Pink One of the best movies of 2002! Why the fuck is this underrated! Morons!!! 5 stars
2/05/03 Krysiek Interesting, though depressing. Gives food for thought. Not a comedy! 4 stars
2/03/03 gus pesimism raping optimism in the ass over a garbage can. awful (& i;m a pesimist) 1 stars
2/01/03 Suzz a rather average film not up to all the hype 3 stars
2/01/03 Phil M. Aficionado Somehow I expected more, but maybe less is what it is really all about. Go Jack! 4 stars
1/31/03 .Choadushouse. Humorous...yet incredibally powerful and depressing! Makes me never want to get old! 4 stars
1/30/03 Evan Who wants to see a movie about a pathetic person who doesn't progress. I sure don't. 1 stars
1/29/03 Bill Head [This should be called "I'm Old, Whoopty Fuck"] Kathy Bates is such a gynecological deformity. Nicholson is the green discharge. 1 stars
1/19/03 FrayLo there's so much more to jack's character that's not said but implied... great movie. 4 stars
1/17/03 Heather An acquired taste, great acting from Jack and you get to see Kathy Bates buck naked 5 stars
1/14/03 Jack de Nero more hollywood crap 1 stars
1/11/03 Butterbean A tad overrated. Kathy Bate's nudity explains why Nicholson looks like that in the poster. 3 stars
1/09/03 OMFG THIS IS TEH SUCKES 1 stars
1/09/03 J get this jackass wintermute off of this site, he's obviously a dumbfuck. 4 stars
1/09/03 Jack Nicholson is god I expected this to be a vehicle for The Jack, but it's much more. Movie of the year, man. 5 stars
1/08/03 Mr Math Wintermute rules! 3 stars
1/06/03 sarah nicholson actually ACTS. who woulda thunk it? 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Dec-2002 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  06-Feb-2003




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