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Overall Rating

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 Erik Childress

"Schmidt Finds Greatness Until It's Sitcomy Third Act"
4 stars

No actor has a greater screen persona than Jack Nicholson. Not a presence, but a persona. Watching Jack Nicholson in a film is paramount to the associations we make with minor aspects of other actors we respect; Al Pacino screaming or Clint Eastwood scowling. With Jack we walk in expecting him to verbally haul off on someone or flash that devious smile. Even a great performance like As Good As It Gets has us saying “now, that’s pure Jack.” In About Schmidt, Jack dials it down. Way down, delivering a performance full of sadness in a story that’s as much about all of us as it is about him.

Warren Schmidt (Nicholson) opens the film in his office at the insurance company he’s spent over 30 years with. Now facing retirement at 66, with his boxes neatly packed up and the room practically empty, Warren sits and watches the clock tick away its final seconds before the new chapter in his life begins. Married for over forty years to frumpy Helen (June Squibb), the routine of getting up early in the morning is about to be slowly shed for a life of channel flipping.

One day he comes upon a child outreach program; the kind where you send money and sponsor an African foster child as if they were a Cabbage Patch Kid. With his only daughter, Jeannie (Hope Davis), about to walk down the aisle with a “nincompoop” named Randall (Dermot Mulroney), Warren extends his hand in letters to little Ndugu (N-DU-GU). Encouraged to reveal personal information about oneself, Warren uses his first letter to vent his frustrations about his life and the unhappiness he feels about the way Helen treats him and the successes in life that he was supposed to achieve.

In desperation, Warren takes off on a road trip in his top-of-the-line motorhome to Jeannie’s wedding. Put off by her father’s spur-of-the-moment incoming, Jeannie tells him to wait until he was scheduled to come and Warren embarks on a revisiting of his past. Through the byways and highways, Warren takes us on a trip of Middle America with the occasional pitstop for reflection before arriving at a final destination he’s not sure he wants any part of.

One of the true pleasures of About Schmidt is the way in which all of the characters are revealed to be as real as you or I and not just atypical caricatures created for our snickers. Director Alexander Payne and fellow screenwriter Jim Taylor (Election) obviously understand the dimensions of the human soul, especially those in the Heartland. Having grown up in Nebraska, Payne could easily point a finger and mock these individuals, but by embracing human nature is able to flaunt their eccentricities along with their flaws. No one in About Schmidt will be given the first stone to throw and just when you’re ready to side with one over another, you realize that neither is as sympathetic or nearly as bad as you would believe.

The first half of Schmidt’s journey is very telling and very sad, though not without bouts of humor to spread on top of it. When Warren arrives at his future in-laws’ home, kept in order by Randall’s mother, Roberta (Kathy Bates), the film takes a sharp turn into near sitcom material. Bates comes in late in the picture like a thunderbolt and threatens to take the focus away from Warren, with frequent rounds of vulgarity and rambling tales of sexuality that Warren has no interest in hearing. The mood is far more comic in these scenes and its thanks to the performance of Nicholson that keeps it grounded just enough before flying overboard.

Nicholson is almost guaranteed an Oscar nomination for this role. Some may look at it as just flipping the switch with a comb-over and a lack of Cheshirism, but there’s a way to his walk and a way he looks at things, forcing a smile when we know Warren would rather be crying. The hopes and dreams of a character like Schmidt are as identifiable as birth itself. Seeing yourself accomplish greatness when you’re still young, only to find yourself trapped in a perfectly respectable existence, providing security for your family will someday have you watching the ticking hand of a clock, wondering where all the time went.

In the film’s perfect final scene, everything the film is about comes down to a picture; one which represents probably the one thing Schmidt has wanted all along. There is no want in this picture, no expectations on or from Warren, no selfishness involved. Just a gift, an appreciation for what Warren has done and for maybe the first time, his life has meaning and if it took him 66 years to receive it, then maybe he can look back and say he’s led a good one.

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originally posted: 12/13/02 11:51:10
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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
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
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  13-Dec-2002 (R)



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