Written By: Louis Begley (novel) / Alexander Payne (screenplay)
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Kathy Bates, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney,
June Squibb, Howard Hesseman
MPAA: Rated R for language and brief nudity
Hey, what's the different between a retirement party and a wake? It's that at a wake, the guest of honor usually has more fun. Not funny, but damn if it ain't true! At least that seems to be how Warren Schmidt feels toward life beyond the comfortable trappings of America's workforce.
Warren, played by Jack Nicholson, is newly retired with more than enough time on his hands. It isn't as though he's not doing what he's supposed to, though. He and the missus already have the required Winnebago. Not the little one, mind you, but the big, 35ft Adventurer model. Now, he'll get to spend even more time with his lovely wife, as they traverse the roadways of our great nation together! Also, he has his daughter's upcoming wedding to look forward to. She's all set to marry the love of her life, a pleasant young waterbed salesman named Randall. Yet, with all of this, Warren still isn't happy. Privately, he questions whether his life has served any purpose, but isn't assertive enough to make a big deal about it. In fact, it could be said that Warren has a retiring personality.
For those under fifty, this may sound like a pretty funny movie. However, for those closer to retirement's grasp, it may just hit a terrifyingly realistic nerve. It is this dual nature that makes About Schmidt so compelling and original. Half the time, I couldn't decide whether it was a comedy or a tragedy! Turns out, it's both. Casting Jack Nicholson completely against type is the stroke of genius which sends the whole thing right over the top.
Nicholson is outstanding in this role, showing an incredible depth of character, much of it without uttering a word of dialogue. Speaking of dialogue, and not to give anything away, but Nicholson's voiceover portions of the film were absolutely hilarious. The repetition of two words in particular had me breaking up just in anticipation of what would surely follow. About Schmidt is certain to garner a nomination or two for its inventive screenplay, and Nicholson deserves another Oscar nomination for his performance.
Trying desperately to overlook one scene featuring Kathy Bates, the only other misgiving I have about this film is that it ends rather abruptly. However, it does so with a great scene. I suppose there's something to be said for having the smarts to quit while you're ahead, eh?
A.J.'s Rating: 4 Stars - Schmidt Happens!
February 6, 2003
Hit the road, Jack!
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