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This is the saddest movie I've seen in years, maybe in my entire life.
People who say it's comedy are dead wrong. It's a realistic, brutally
true example of a failed life, and it's so tragic.
Nicholson plays Warren Schmidt, an insurance salesman, whose life crashes down on him when he retires. Nicholson, someone I've loved ever since I first saw him, gives his best performance since "One flew over the cuckoos nest". He's so subtle, so sad, so hollow. You don't doubt for a second that he is Schmidt. He has let his body age for the role, which makes him even more real.
Alexander Payne's direction is flawless. Everyone, simply everyone, does a great job portraying the various characters, from the hotshot newly educated young man who takes Schmidt's job, to the embarrassing buddy of Schmidt's daughter's fiancé.
This is a must-see movie. Even if you hate Jack in all his other movies, you will love him in this one. Don't expect a "hilarious comedy", though. This is a thoughtful movie and not "Anger Management".
I love Nicolson and I thought his work in this film was as good as any
I have seen him do in any of his previous films. My accolades must
begin with the writers for creating such a beautiful novel and script-a
perfect canvas for the many fine actors in this film upon which they
wove their considerable magic. There were no killings, no car chases,
no violence of any kind-I'm surprised that Hollywood distributed it.
Such a slice of life-American life with it's many warts-warts that the Americans probably don't even recognize: Winnebagos like moving palaces, freeway monuments to genocide, business that consumes it's workers only to dump them unceremoniously, too much of everything that amounts to emptiness, etc., etc. The novel by Begley, upon which the film was based, illustrated this consumer emptiness brilliantly by the inclusion of the bookends to the film, the sponsorship of the Tanzanian child by Schmidt. The child's material emptiness was contrasted with Schmidt's emotional emptiness in a way America does not recognize much less watch on the screen.
The last part of the movie dealing with the marriage of Schmidt's daughter to a man who came from a diametrically opposite "new age" family was an unstated acknowledgment by his daughter that she wanted nothing of her father's values-she wanted a complete break and she was going to marry the break.
A fascinating, complex movie and I'm sorry I didn't see it much earlier.
I was dubious when my 65 year old father picked this DVD up from the
shelf at Blockbuster. "Great choice dad!", secretly wondering why I let
him pick 2 films out of the 3 in the special offer they had going. You
see, my father has a penchant for Woody Allen and anybody who has a
rather dry sense of humour, this includes Nicholson.
We sat down tonight, and the first thing that hit me was the way that the film was shot. It is shot using rather blue and green hues, so the film is rather subdued. Secondly, the music stands out. Instead of using a typical 'boohoo' orchestra, the film uses beautiful wandering piano and marimba sounds.
The characters, I could easily relate to. Helen, the faithful wife who is excited about getting to spend a new chapter of her life with her husband. The husband, who obeys his wife but secretly resents it. A sudden change which causes a rethink in everything he has done up until that point.
At first, this appeared to be a comedy, but it was soon revealed to be a beautifully poignant film. Throughout, it questions mortality, what you can achieve in life, and how to cope with loss, or change. I don't think I have ever cried as much in 2 hours as I did during this film, and yet at the same time laughed so hard that my sides were splitting.
I would thoroughly recommend anybody to watch this film. It will stay with you for a long time.
This film must be watched very carefully. If you're not paying enough attention to it, you would miss it (some did). It's in the frames, the atmosphere, the tiny details, the situations, the acting, everything. But it's not that obvious, unless you enter that world. Simple story? Sure. Life is simple. So is great art. All in all, "About Schmidt" is a really great film. Bitter humor, all-pervading lie, the infinite sadness of loneliness and failure, sincere egoism, everyday dullness, desperate and quiet hope - this is life, and in a non-blatant, nor melodramatic manner. But you're going to weep (and smile) at the ending (I did!). And one more question: is The Mulholland Man the greatest actor ever or not?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jack Nicholson was robbed of another deserving Oscar for his portrayal
of the lead character in this movie. This movie was very funny, but in
a very dry, painfully realistic manner, like hitting your funny bone.
Nicholson plays a man, who upon retiring, loses his wife of many years. His daughter who lives in another state and who he isn't very close to informs him that she's about to marry. He goes out to meet the future son-in-law and his family who turn out to be basically one rung up the ladder above trailer trash.
Dermot Mulroney turns in another excellent performance this time as the dim witted fiancé. Why he's not more respected in the industry I'll never know. Hope Davis is perfect in this role as the daughter who somehow always gets the short stick in life. Kathy Bates as an abrasive, obnoxious mother of the groom is something to see. She deserved her Oscar nomination as well.
The movie is an extremely stark, gray, black humor piece that is frighteningly true to life. Pushed a few more degrees in another direction and it could have been just one long root canal, but the director, Alexander Payne, walked just this side of that fine line between comedy and tragedy. Will most assuredly be one of the best movies of the fist decade of the new century.
Jack Nicholson stars as a Warren Schmidt, a man who suffers several
crises at once. First he goes into retirement, then his wife dies, and
finally his daughter marries a no-hoper. Forced to abandon his usual
comfortable routine, Schmidt goes on a personal journey of discovery
and tries to make some sense of his life.
The beauty of About Schmidt is how well developed and interesting the characters are. They feel like real people struggling with real situations, which is a surprisingly difficult trick to pull off. This success can be attributed to the strength of the script and most importantly to the uniformly superb acting.
This film provides a showcase for Nicholson to display his talent, and he doesn't disappoint, delivering a superb and multi-layered turn, which is a world away from the smirking characters he often plays. He allows his face to droop, and adopts a world-weary expression, as Schmidt continually finds himself at the mercy of events.
One of Schmidt's first decisions when he determines to get out of the rut he finds himself in is to sponsor an African child. This doesn't have much to do with the rest of the plot, but provides an outlet for Schmidt's innermost thoughts, and is a brilliant and original way of allowing the audience inside the head of the central character.
About Schmidt succeeds in tackling the subject of old age, a topic not often addressed in mainstream Hollywood fare, and for that it should be applauded. This is a terrific film, which features Nicholson at his best.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
About Schmidt is the story of a man left with the curious task of
trying to find meaning in his life at age 66. Most people by this age
would have hopefully figured out how and why they make a difference on
this Earth, but Warren Schmidt suddenly realizes he is insignificant
after all these years.
Schmidt is played to perfection by Jack Nicholson. This is not the Jack Nicholson we have all grown up watching in films like Easy Rider and The Shining. This Jack Nicholson is subdued, almost lifeless at times, like the character he portrays. You keep waiting for him to explode or break out like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, but it just isn't right for the character. He's too old, and weak by his own admission. He finds himself on a quest to make a difference in life before its over. And the film takes him for a leisurely ride.
About Schmidt is directed by Alexander Payne. He's a man apparently on a quest of his own to put our great(?) state of Nebraska on the map of the film-making world.
After some obligatory shots of downtown Omaha, we see Schmidt sitting in his office on his last day of work before retirement from the Woodman insurance company. He sits alone and quietly waits until the last seconds of the work day tick off and he's then presumably a free man. However, once the clock strikes five, nothing special happens! In most films, we might expect bells to go off, or music to start playing as the character joyfully begins his new life. Not here. Schmidt has no grand plans for the rest of his life, and that fact is punctuated by this dreary scene.
We then see Schmidt at a ho-hum retirement dinner at Johnny's Cafe, then he gets started on his ho-hum retirement. It appears the only thing he plans to do is go traveling with his wife in their giant camper which ends up as Schmidt's primary mode of transportation the rest of the film. Only there's one thing Schmidt didn't count on. His wife drops dead one day while he's out getting a Blizzard at the DQ. (It appears they shot that scene at the one over in Millard.) After his wife is in the ground, Schmidt goes through some difficult days. He really misses his wife. She seemed to completely take care of his every need as well as run his life in the process. He appears on the brink of despair at her passing until he finds evidence of an adulterous relationship with his best friend!!! After throwing out all of her belongings, he sets off on a sight-seeing tour of our great(?) state before planning to attend his daughter's wedding in Denver.
In one particularly touching scene, he pronounces forgiveness for his wife's affair and resolves to do one important thing before he leaves this earth. And that thing will be to break up his daughter's wedding. She is planning to marry a simpleton who sells water beds for a living and comes from an odd, new-age family of losers. Schmidt drives out to Denver on a mission, feeling as strong and focused as ever.
Once in Dever however, things don't go according to plans. His daughter really loves this loser, and won't hear of leaving him. Her love for this guy is as impossible for Schmidt to imagine as his contempt for her new family is for her to imagine. Schmidt and his daughter couldn't be any further apart. Kathy Bates is typically outstanding as the over-bearing mother of the man his daughter is marrying. Be forewarned though: Bates DOES in fact get naked in a scene, and it would be wise to cover your eyes lest you turn to stone! Her family is annoying and you can just tell their house smells like her feet which she has out in plain view once Schmidt first arrives there.
Schmidt isn't having any luck stopping the wedding and it looks like he'll have one last chance to make his point. At the reception, after a ghastly toast by the best man, it's Schmidt's turn to make a speech. And once again you think, "Here it comes! Here's where he'll go off and tell everyone what he thinks about them in one big comic rant!" But no, it doesn't happen. That's just not something his character is capable of. He can merely swallow his pride and say the only good things he can think of. Most of the wedding party seems to buy it, but you can tell by the look on his daughter's face that she knows it's all b/s. Schmidt is in fact too weak to break up the wedding. Witness the despair on his face as he stands at the urinal after giving the speech. He missed what he feels was his last chance to make a difference in this world.
Now Schmidt has nothing left to do but go home to die. Only in the film's last frame to we see any redemption to this tragic man's life. And a very touching moment it is. I was in tears, and that doesn't happen too often when I watch a film.
This film is worth all ten stars. This Alexander Payne appears to be for real. We already knew Jack was!! ps: Did anyone else notice the symbolism with the cows? First at the retirement dinner with his picture up next to two prize cows. Then the cattle truck being washed off near his wife's funeral. Then as he's driving down the highway in a big truck just like they are. Then at the wedding reception as the beef is being sliced while he's in obvious pain about how things have gone.
Food for thought.
About Schmidt is Forrest Gump through the lens of Sartre or Camus.
Schmidt has a handicap, but it's the same handicap most of the people
standing on line at seven p.m. at your local Wendy's have. The real star
anti-star) of About Schmidt is the mediocre architectural landscape of
America. Every room or box Warren Schmidt enters in this movie is as
of caring and vitality as he is: the retirement banquet room, Warren's
house, the tire store, the hired wedding reception room. Schmidt's
and production designer take care to place us in the same life-draining,
cheap structures we inhabit and deal with everyday. No prettifying. This
the drab landscape of Fargo revisited, but without the irony. The steady
doses of violence in Fargo allowed you an escape route. But there's
ironical about a wasted life and a 66 year old widower spinning his
in the same rut, now partnerless and foundering. The combination of Jack,
this story and these settings is effective and compelling. The result
be, I think, inevitable. The tone and attitude is not consistently
even by Nicholsen, whose worn-out, mannered schtick pops up occasionally.
Yet the final effect is impossible to fend off: mundane American hell
droll comedic diversion. We experience a downfall as poignant as the
of bacon cooking in Denny's at eight a.m.
Like Forrest Gump, the film depends on extensive voice over narration, V.O'd by Nicholsen as letters to Schmidt's newly adopted six year old Tanzanian foster child. Through these ridiculous sharings of sextagenarian angst with an African boy, we register Schmidt's internal grievances - thoughts we would never know about otherwise without his commentary. The slow dragging score drains vitality from each transition, as if cinematic momentum would be antithetical to the point of the tale. Back and forth we rock from a single minor chord to a second one, getting nowhere. The mood, the landscape, the buildings, the people say it all: Schmidt's on the road, but he might as well be sitting home in his lay-z-boy. The cushy bucket seat of a 35 foot Winnebago makes a good substitute.
Casting Jack Nicholson may have been the only way this story could have come to the screen. I've racked my brain to think of one other actor who could have pulled Schmidt off. Tony Hopkins? Not with the same comedic finesse. Gene Hackman reprising his role in Coppola's The Conversation or doing his Tennenbaum hamming? Don't think so. Only Jack has the mix. He does some hilarious bits in this, but overall the mood is somber, glum, inert. Can this be how that other famous Warren from Nebransas - Mr. Buffet - lives?
I was confused, amused, depressed and wierdly disoriented by About Schmidt as I left the theater. I commented that it wasn't a film I'd go see again. Thinking about it a day later, I'd hold to that IF it meant returning to the theater and paying. BUT - were I to run across About Schmidt on cable, I doubt I could tear myself away from it any more than I could from a crack up at the Indy 500. And I think that chance encounter might happen more than once, maybe for years. After all, this is the America I know and mark time in myself. A recommended film going experience.
Of course we would hope that is not the case but watching a movie like
this certainly puts the idea of life into question. This is a funny
movie but looking back its probably not quite the kind of jokes you
appreciate laughing at.
In the lead role as Warren Schmidt is none other then Jack Nicholson, with an already astute résumé, only further strengthens his long career with his subtle and charming performance. The charm never wears off with the audience as Schmidt's morals and interest for the most part stay in place in his heart and mind. Unfortunately in the tale of Schmidt in the film not only does his charm wear off but he is seen as a liability by those who he thought of as his loved ones. His life takes this crash when he retires from his career and an insurance agent. Soon after he realizes he may have wasted his entire life away. The downward spiral of his life and his sense of purpose hangs on the thread of a boy he has never even met.
As subtle as Nicholson's performance is, so is the writing. It is quietly very witty which almost inconspicuously gives off a whole lot of cynicism. Along with Alexander Payne writing the screenplay he directed the film as well. The movie is certainly not all style and why should it be when that could possibly be the only thing that could really hurt this film. The film is about humanity in a raw and complex way, sometimes the best method of showing this is through simplicity to the point where you are almost certain there is something else that lies behind the curtain of it all.
There is no doubt I would recommend this film but don't expect a pure comedy. Instead try and take a fresh and real look at the entire movie and the events that take place. Depending on who you are, you may find certain points of this movie to be either sorrowful and dejected or slightly uplifting and optimistic. Just don't make a heartless joke of it, because none of us want to think of our life as that; a joke.
I spent a day watching "About Schmidt", with Jack Nicholson... and then
the evening rambling through reviews, since my wife's perception of the
ending differed somewhat from mine....
Conflict can often lead to enlightenment and discovery, but not so in the case of Warren Schmidt. In his case it leads to a life of complacency, denial, delusion, and passive-aggressive behaviors... and eventually, to a meaningless life of servitude devoid of passion or purpose.
Since my wife and I are around the same age as the character, and we ponder the same issues of our lives, the film had more significance to us. I found the work to be a cinema-graphic piece of art laced with symbolism and dark humor (at best). I likened it to previous movies like "Death of a Salesman", "The Apartment", "The Swimmer" (Burt Lancaster), or a short filmed called "The Bridge".
As a cautionary tale (or social comment) on the "American Way" of life, the messages it conveys are slightly exaggerated, but nevertheless there to be debated. We are talking about identity, achievement, interpersonal relationships, and the "average IQ".
In the end, I believe this film will become one that is studied in future classrooms, and it was brave of Nicholson to participate in such a character study and a work intended primarily for writers, actors, and directors. If laughter is "the sound we make when we are surprised (or shocked) by the truth", then the amount of humor you find in this film may be directly related to your own level of naivety or denial. After all, laughter can often be just another defense mechanism, right?
Some movies are straightforward, some are magical, some are mystical, and then, some are symbolic. This movie falls into the last category. The use of time, space, cognitive dissonance, and Irony abound in this work and challenge us to look, think, and feel.
Notes: we would have cut or altered the "Percodan scene" at the rehearsal (as overdone), also note- the cattle at the funeral who later appear on the freeway, inside jokes about Des Moines and Denver, Randall's "Certificate of Attendance", the look on Jeannie's face at the end of Warren's speech at the Wedding Reception, the use of "overstatement", details of wall decorations, and Warren's obvious attraction to the trite, idealistic, delusional, and superficial.
If you are a thinking, feeling, serious movie-lover, you should SEE this film once, and then STUDY it the 2nd time!
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