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Dear Ndugu: I watched a very good film today called "About Schmidt". I
must say that it's one of the most original comedies of all time. Now,
you may ask why am I saying this. Well, there are certain aspects that
I found that made this film successful. Of course there's the superb
performance of our dear old friend Jack Nicholson (I think it's one of
his greatest roles along "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "The
Shining"). Secondly, we have the good pace and rhythm that Alexander
Payne gives to the movie. Then we have an extraordinary screenplay
based on a great book. What else can yo ask from a film? I hope that,
when you grow up, after having survived all those problems of the
African nations, you'll know how to appreciate movies like this, and I
hope this film maintains as a landmark on cinematic history. Sincerely
yours, David Muñoz, your fan.
P.S. My rating: ****1/2 out of 5
Premise of my critique:
My wife and I go to the movies primarily for entertainment and secondarily
to learn something. About Schmidt provides neither.
Almost everything that could go wrong for a guy (Schmidt) after he retires is depicted in detail through long (very long) scenes of no action: boring.
We all know that Jack and Kathy are going to give good performances- that is a given. But what a waste of talent to dwell on these aspects of life. I hope that none of this happens to me when I retire.
Yes, yes. Jack Nicholson gives a superb performance, but this alone does not a good movie make, and neither does a nude Kathy Bates. (Oh yes, you read correctly.)
The is no real humor - the audience has to supply the laughter, and you can feel the strain everyone goes through trying to find something (anything) at which to laugh. For example, they show some guy (just an unknown neighbor) taking out or throwing a bag of garbage, and some people laugh. Why, what is funny?
Nicholson 'adopts' a poor kid in a foreign country, and this becomes an important part of the movie. Both my wife and I thought (hoped) that eventually this would provide some real humor, but it does not. Instead, they portray this as real; that is, that Mr. Schmidt's contribution makes it possible to actually 'adopt' a child. And there is even a letter from some 'sister' (nun) writing about the 'adopted child'. BUNK! I can tell you that from personal experience. Most of those child-adoption programs are scams!
There may have been two or three funny scenes throughout the movie, but overall, it was one of the most boring movies we have seen.
About Schmidt is clearly the most overrated movie of the year, and has the most misleading ad campaign of the year. The ads make it look like a light-hearted romp, when really it is dark and depressing, interspersed with a few mildly humorous (yet oddly sad) moments. In the movie, Schmidt is a man who just retired to realize his whole life has meant nothing. So he makes a few feeble attempts to change that but learns that he can't. He is sad, depressed, and worthless at the start, and sad, depressed, and worthless at the end. And that is the problem with this movie -- it doesn't GO anywhere. It's like watching depressed friends discuss their problems for two straight hours as they forget that you are there. To be fair, the performances are amazing, and the dialogue is very real, but it just sits there, like a slow day of flipping channels. If you want to be depressed by a good movie, see Leaving Las Vegas, or even The Man Who Wasn't There. This one has nothing to say -- just a blank demonstration of how depressed good actors can make you.
I loved this movie because anyone can relate to what Jack Nicholson's character goes through. No matter what your age, we all go through periods in our lives where we experience the same type of distress and sorrow and so this movie made me realize something that I already knew but it was basically confirmed. Age is just a number which tells us how long we have been on this earth. It is not an indication of how much knowledge we have or if we are superior or inferior to others. We should not be defined by our ages whether you are considered to be "older", "old", "younger", and/or "young". Tragically, this is not something that the average person may see when viewing this film, they may just see it as a film about an"old guy who goes through life's ups and downs"!!!!
This hit theaters, and then was gone in a puff. This movie is great in
its telling of a story that is absolutely plausible in real life. There
is conflict and the tale of a man facing three major life changes...
all at once. Jack Nicholson plays the main character masterfully. At
times, he is so pathetic, you can't help but laugh. But you also feel
for him too. It is one character I think most people can feel close to.
The movie has a great and emotional ending. The thread throughout the movie is magnificent and powerful.
One of the best ever!
Highly recommend. (Especially if you are of retirement age).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this film a few nights ago, and have seen Nicholson in quite
a few amazing films. I think this also has an amazing story with some
great performances. This comment does have a few spoilers too.
Nicholson (Schmidt)plays a 66 year old man and knows that he has aged for a while now. After old wife suddenly dies, he is a lonesome guy traveling to see his daughter getting married by a man that he does not care for. He doesn't want this wedding to happen, but at his old age, he probably doesn't any choice.
But before Schmidt's wife he sees a program on TV about saving poor native Americans. So donates money after he just quit from his job in Omaha, and writes back to the child every so often. But as he's traveling to see his daughter, he stops in a few places and looks at towns once again in Nebraska, and camps for few nights.
After the wedding of his daughter and the 'waterbeds and more' man, he travels back home and doesn't want to think about the wedding. So finally at the end, he receives mail back from the child. Someone else wrote for him because I think he was sick. The person mentions that the child drew him a picture.
Now this is the tearjerker moment, it shows a colored picture of the child and Schmidt holding hands. Not too often did I see an old Nicholson cry in such a uplifting way. But man did I love this film! I cried along with Jack, and he knows maybe now that he is an old man and the picture somehow broke him up. But it was a very well made film. Some parts were supposed to be funny in a way when his first letter writes about his wife to child in a angry tone. Also when goes to the restroom, he doesn't use his hands, and doesn't even face the toilet. I mean some of those scenes were a bit different for a film like this.
But overall it deserves a high rating, and I loved it!
"Warren Schmidt is about to experience a bittersweet slice of life.
Newly retired, he and his wife Helen have big plans to see America -
but an unexpected twist changes everything. Now, Schmidt is determined
to stop his daughter's wedding to an underachieving waterbed salesman.
From meeting the groom's eccentric parents to sponsoring a Tanzanian
foster child, Schmidt sets off on his mission
and gets lost along the
road to self-discovery," according to the DVD sleeve. New Line Cinema
is alive and well.
This film, by director Alexander Payne writing with Jim Taylor is a mostly successful comedy-drama, but the satire gets a little lost.
The "Best Actor" Oscar-nominated performance by Jack Nicholson carries the drama, with the hilarious-in-a-hot-tub "Best Supporting Actress" turn by Kathy Bates (as Roberta Hertzel) stealing away with the comedy. This is helped by the smaller part given Ms. Bates being so perfectly written, and Nicholson's obvious "have at it" attitude. As Nicholson's daughter, Hope Davis is puzzling but effective; she must have been a mama's girl. As Bates' son, fiancé Dermot Mulroney is a chip off the old block.
******* About Schmidt (5/22/02) Alexander Payne ~ Jack Nicholson, Kathy Bates, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney
Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) is a man who's always wanted to
accomplish more in life, but now he finds himself retiring from a dead
end job having made no difference in the world around him. One day, on
a whim, Warren calls Childreach and "adopts" an African orphan named
Ndugu, who Warren uses as a sounding board to let out his feelings
concerning what he feels is his wasted life. Shortly after his
retirement, Warren's wife, Helen (June Squibb), dies reminding Warren
of just how much he needed her. On his way to his daughter, Jeannie's
(Hope Davis) wedding Warren takes a soul searching road trip in his RV
before trying to convince his daughter to not marry the waterbed
salesman (Dermot Mulroney) she's currently engaged to.
Before winning the adapted screen writing Oscar for his wine country dramedy, Sideways, and after his nomination for the excellent Election, Alexandar Payne co-wrote and directed this underrated dramedy with his oft-writing partner Jim Taylor. Overshadowed by a notorious nude scene by Kathy Bates in the late second act of the movie, it's often forgotten that Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates were both nominated for Oscars and Jack Nicholson won a Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a drama (to which Nicholson said during his acceptance speech, "I'm a little surprised, I thought we had made a comedy"). First picking up this movie I can't really say that I knew what to expect going in, but that's also part of what made me pick up this movie in the first place.
What I got, for all the fuss about Kathy Bates, was a poignant character study about a very ordinary man in his 60's. I'm sure a lot of people don't feel the same way, after all some of Warren's actions are deplorable, but he's a very human character. He's an ordinary man who wants to be extraordinary about him, and so inside he pines to make a difference in the world. The movie does a great job, as well as Nicholson playing the role to a tee, of showing a man that even at his happiest carries around the weight of never having accomplished anything in his life to be proud of as he also confronts his own mortality. In the end the movie reminds us that we don't have to do big great things to make a difference in the world, though, even small gestures can make the world around us a better place.
While in the end the overall message of the movie can be considered slightly corny, I still have to say that I recommend this movie. At times it's quite funny, and the acting is phenomenal. Even with a corny message, which does not overbear the plot or tone of the movie, sometimes we do need to be reminded of these things at times. Give it a try, if you like Payne's other films like Sideways and Election you'll probably enjoy this, and it's also one of Nicholson's best later career performances.
This movie made a big old guy like me tear up! The way the story unfolded made you feel as if Jack was trying to make a statement about his film career. I don't know if it went unnoticed but he did do his usual thing and this time acted his pants off. I was captivated with great expectation as he meandered through his new world. I love the character development even with the unseen boy (you get it once you've watched it). Kathy Bates really exposed her true self in this movie and Jack out did himself. It seems that he has reached a place in his professional career where quality and story telling has rebounded to be most important to him. I watched this movie by myself but had to show it again to my wife as she wondered what made me cry. She also wiped her eyes. Hollywood can sometimes allow a movie like this to slip through amidst all the fluff it produces. I highly recommend this film for people who love great stories. It's about time Jack got back to this kind of picture. This move is about life!
Thoughtful, very well made dramady about growing old and rediscovering
yourself is one of the most poignant, engaging and hip movies to center
around senior citizens I have ever seen. In what may have been his last
true character acting to date, Jack Nicholson dazzles and depresses in
equal measure as laconic everyman Schmidt. His wonderful performance,
paired with the extremely talented director Alexander Payne, ensures a
heavy dose of quality resides in nearly every frame of this oddly warm
Hardly witnessing any real down-time, Payne reels in viewers from the very beginning with a hilariously brilliant introduction which eventually becomes even more resonant once a dramatic back story begins to take hold. The excellent pacing throughout effortlessly merges comedic and dramatic appeal, only feeling as seamless as it does due to the great talent involved. Everything feels calibrated to near pitch-perfect levels here, justified even in it's absurd coincidences and questionable motives. Narration, which is usually shoved into films so thoughtlessly, feels appropriate here as Schmidt pours his repressed heart and soul out to an African orphan in completely over-the-top, but endearing letters. His road trip may reek of conceptual cliché, though Payne captures it exactly in a way to render the sentiment fresh though Schmidt's eyes. Even the somewhat manipulative script manages to soar through any coincidental mishaps by ushering in the frail soul of this character to filter out any semi-generic plot points.
A humble triumph of high order for both star and director, About Schmidt seems to be even more accomplished then Payne's next film, the critical darling Sideways. It is an ambitious, though never over-bearing foray into the study of a man who has neared the end of his life, elegantly laying out many of the uncomfortable pleasantries that go with it. For an outstanding dedication to brining the fictional reality of this 66 year old man to the screen, this is well worth seeing, and is one of the more impressive, substantial American films on the subject of old age in modern years.
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