About Schmidt

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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 ...
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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.
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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

An impressively bleak comedy with intimations of social satire. J. Hoberman
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/3/2003
  • UPC: 794043631733
  • Original Release: 2002
  • Rating:

  • Source: New Line Home Video
  • Format: VHS

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    About Schmidt

    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 screenwriting Oscar for his wine country dramedy, Sideways, and after his nomination for the excellent Election, Alexandar Payne cowrote 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.

    4/5

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Boring and Pretentious!

    I like Jack Nicholson, he has starred in some of my favorite movies but I didn't like About Schmidt and thought it was one of the most overrated movies that I had ever seen! Boring, pretentious and filled with unlikeable characters, especially the spoiled brat daughter!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    oops!

    The notorious Jack Nickolson has gone down in flames on this one. This drab movie has a weak plot and drags on and on and on. to say the least, i did not enjoy this movie at all and i do not recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Jack is quite delightful

    about schmidt is one of the most amazingly fantastic stories of dry horrible reality that i have ever seen jack portrayed schmidt like no actor today could THIS MAN IS GOOD he is an incredible actor and this movie proves that jack is one on THE GREATESt of our time The movie itself is not without glory,i have never seen such a great depiction of middle age reality and for its take on dry humor it is a MASTERPIECE.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Brilliant!

    Though Jack Nicholson gives an undeniably spectacular performance in About Schmidt, it appears as though the public has been inundated with hype for his emoting. Meanwhile, I strongly recommend noting the movie's breathtaking dialogue, devastating depiction of Middle America disillusion, and extraordinarily accurate portrayal of human error, sacrifice, and love. The wit overflows with genius, but manages this rare feat without being precocious or pretentious. Watch for more outstanding work by Alexander Payne, and, as if anyone harbored doubts, Jack Nicholson as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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