About Schmidt

About Schmidt

3.8 6
Director: Alexander Payne

Cast: Alexander Payne, Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney

     
 

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Jack Nicholson plays retiring insurance actuary Warren Schmidt in Alexander Payne's About Schmidt. Schmidt has settled into a dormant life. He has an unfulfilling marriage to Helen (June Squibb), and conspires to spend as much time away from her as possible. Schmidt's daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) is engaged to Randall Hertzel (Dermot Mulroney), a man SchmidtSee more details below

Overview

Jack Nicholson plays retiring insurance actuary Warren Schmidt in Alexander Payne's About Schmidt. Schmidt has settled into a dormant life. He has an unfulfilling marriage to Helen (June Squibb), and conspires to spend as much time away from her as possible. Schmidt's daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) is engaged to Randall Hertzel (Dermot Mulroney), a man Schmidt believes is entirely unworthy of his daughter. When Helen unexpectedly dies, Warren is adrift until he discovers old love letters sent to his wife from his best friend. This inspires Warren to make a valiant effort to stop his daughter's wedding. His plans start to go awry when he meets Randall's extroverted mother, Roberta (Kathy Bates). About Schmidt was screened at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival where many were surprised that Nicholson did not take home the Best Actor award.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
The tepidity of the American Dream leads to a less-than-epic journey of the soul in About Schmidt, a curiously dry satire of middle-class values from director Alexander Payne (Election). Jack Nicholson stars as the eponymous hero, whose retirement from a meaningless white-collar job, followed quickly by his wife's death, prompts him to hit the road in a Winnebago, in an ersatz odyssey of self-discovery. The film’s great strength is its tone, which hinges on Schmidt's role as a classic unreliable narrator. The letters he pens to a third-world orphan he's decided to sponsor supply deliciously ironic voice-over narration. The fact is, Schmidt's road trip is ultimately as uninspiring as his life, and he remains unable to conjure up any real emotion after decades of quiet despair and delusions of contentment. It's a subtle and effective approach that plays against the strip-mall satire, resulting in a strangely haunting atmosphere throughout. Strong supporting performances anchor the film, including Hope Davis as Schmidt's mousy daughter, Dermot Mulroney as her mullet-sporting fiancé, and Kathy Bates as his uninhibited mother. But About Schmidt is Nicholson's show, and it’s a relief to see the actor finally shed his romantic leading man persona to play an ordinary old man. The result is a striking film that is neither cruelly satirical nor overtly sentimental, one that is more interested in asking the big questions than supplying the answers.
All Movie Guide - Josh Ralske
About Schmidt is another pitch-black comedy from director Alexander Payne and co-screenwriter Jim Taylor, the team responsible for Citizen Ruth and Election. While About Schmidt features Jack Nicholson's most impressively controlled performance in many years, the film's mix of bleakness and cheap laughs has to be seen as a disappointment after the sharp satire and moral complexity of Election. The film starts well, with Nicholson bringing a bitter retiree into sharp focus. His contempt for his chipper wife, Helen (June Squibb), and his resentment at being pushed out of his job simmer under the surface until he begins writing to a Tanzanian orphan named Ndugu, whom he "sponsors" after seeing a grim charity infomercial. It's a conceit that seems too clever, but it works surprisingly well, allowing the audience to see, in Schmidt's straightforward ramblings ("Who is this old woman who lives in my house?"), another layer of mendacity in how he sees himself. We can see what an unreliable narrator he is, though Payne sometimes belabors the point, as when Schmidt is writing about using a road trip as an opportunity to enjoy the time he has left on earth, as a bird dropping splatters across his windshield. Every relationship in Schmidt's life is tinged with self-delusion. His idealized view of his daughter, Jeannie (a sharp turn by Hope Davis), threatens to destroy their shaky relationship when he decides to interfere with her plans to marry a dorky waterbed salesman, Randall (Dermot Mulroney). Randall and his clan are portrayed as buffoons, mostly, but Kathy Bates, in a bold performance, lends some dignity to Randall's crudely free-spirited mother. The film's condescending attitude toward these characters produces some easy laughs at their expense, but that doesn't alleviate the unrelenting grimness of Payne's mildly disappointing comedy.
Village Voice
An impressively bleak comedy with intimations of social satire. J. Hoberman
New York Times
Lays out an expansive, impressively even-handed vision of life in contemporary Middle America. Stephen Holden
Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert
1/2
That Jack Nicholson makes this man so watchable is a tribute not only to his craft, but to his legend.
Boston Globe - Ty Burr
A brutally dry satire of Middle American numbness.
Los Angeles Times
Perfectly pitched between comedy and tragedy, hope and despair, About Schmidt instead comes far closer than many movies to expressing the way many of us live -- someplace between consuming self-absorption and insistently demanding otherness. Manohla Dargis

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Product Details

Release Date:
06/03/2003
UPC:
0794043631733
Original Release:
2002
Rating:
R
Source:
New Line Home Video

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jack Nicholson Warren Schmidt
Hope Davis Jeannie
Dermot Mulroney Randall Hertzel
Kathy Bates Roberta Hertzel
Len Cariou Ray
Howard Hesseman Larry
June Squibb Helen Schmidt
Cheryl Hamada Saundra

Technical Credits
Alexander Payne Director,Screenwriter
Bill Badalato Executive Producer
Lisa Beach Casting
Michael Besman Producer
Wendy Chuck Costumes/Costume Designer
Frank Gaeta Set Decoration/Design
Harry Gittes Producer
James Glennon Cinematographer
Rachel Horovitz Executive Producer
John Jackson Casting
Sarah Katzman Casting
Rolfe Kent Score Composer
George Parra Asst. Director
Art Rochester Sound/Sound Designer
Jane Ann Stewart Production Designer
Jim Taylor Screenwriter
Kevin Tent Editor

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