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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 EricDSnider

"Jack Nicholson makes 'Schmidt' happen."
5 stars

In "About Schmidt," we finally see the mythical figure we have long suspected existed but never had proof of: Jack Nicholson as an Old Man.

After years (decades?) of cavorting with far-younger women, both on screen and off, Nicholson is given a wife his own age here.

He further skews his wolfish bad-boy image by appearing completely disheveled in some scenes, unflatteringly naked in another, and meekly non-confrontational throughout. Warren Schmidt, his character, suffers fools gladly -- something I suspect Nicholson never does.

Going against audience expectations is not what makes "About Schmidt" such a thoroughly delightful film, but it is indicative of the filmmakers' mischievous attitudes. The director is Alexander Payne; he co-wrote the script with Jim Taylor, and the two of them also gave us "Election," that thrillingly subversive (and funny) 1999 film that helped a nation forgive Matthew Broderick for "Inspector Gadget."

"About Schmidt" (only tangentially related to the Louis Begley novel of that name) gives us honest emotion when we least expect it, makes fun of characters who turn out to be legitimately affecting, and uses throw-away jokes to establish real themes. It is smart, but not in a highbrow way; if the opportunity arises for a laugh at the expense of a naked Kathy Bates, they will zealously pursue it.

Nicholson plays Warren Schmidt, a recently retired Omaha insurance man who, with no job to go to, has no idea what to do. His wife, Helen (June Squibb), runs the house and has no use for her jobless husband. Like many older couples, they hardly know each other anymore. ("Who is this old woman who lives in my house?" Warren asks us.)

With nothing else to do, Warren responds to one of those charity TV commercials and starts sponsoring a poor Tanzanian boy named Ndugu, going the extra mile and writing him letters. These are some of the film's comedic highlights; Warren uses the letters as a form of therapy. I would like to see the look on Ndugu's face when someone translates them for him and he learns that Helen never lets Warren urinate from a standing position.

Then Helen dies, and Warren is thrown into true upheavel. His daughter, Jeannie (Hope Davis), lives in Denver and is about to marry a loser named Randall (Dermot Mulroney). She doesn't want her dad hanging around getting underfoot any more than necessary, though she's glad to let him pay for the wedding.

Warren Schmidt is a man accustomed to doing what he's told, an avoider of wave-making in the purest sense -- but darned if Nicholson doesn't make him, of all things, lovable, noble and decent. He's told at his retirement dinner that the true mark of a man's greatness is not how much insurance he sold, but how many lives he touched. Now, in his golden years, Schmidt is uncertain whether he's actually done any good.

Nicholson's performance through all of this is among his finest work of the past 20 years. He is completely immersed in Warren Schmidt, doggedly dealing with -- and playing straight-man to -- his shrewish daughter, Randall's outrageous mother (Kathy Bates), and all manner of other nuisances with the perseverance of a saint. The more patient he is, the funnier the movie becomes.

Bates is marvelous as Randall's mother, bringing unexpected life into the film's third act. I was also tickled by Harry Groener (the evil mayor on TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") as a nerdy Wisconsinite who uses nautical terms in discussing his mobile home.

The sharp comedy that occupies most of the film melts into a sentimental -- but not syrupy -- conclusion that is one of my favorite movie endings of the year. Beneath the dark sardonicism and aloofness of "About Schmidt" beats a beautiful, redemptive heart.

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originally posted: 06/30/03 10:46:04
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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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