Flicks & Folios – Film Review: About Schmidt

This is a really recent film for many students but is so well-done I really had to review it! Plus it’s on local cable now.

About Schmidt is the oddly funny tale of Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson). The film opens with Warren sitting in his Omaha-based insurance office. He is staring at the clock. The office is cleaner and more sterile than most hospitals. It is Warren’s last day. This executive is given the usual trite dinner and thank you speeches and is now faced with retirement and his upcoming daughter Jeannie’s (Hope Davis) marriage to her rather odd boyfriend (played well by Dermot Mulroney).

Warren is bored with watching TV one night and decides to sign up for an outreach program to sponsor a starving Tanzanian boy, Ndugu. The struggling 6-year-old gets an earful about poor Warren’s life. We, however, get the hilarious results. Warren begins by writing Ndugu with a general story about his life on a yellow legal pad of paper, and we “hear” the usual stiff composition so many of us use in letters. Then his face tightens and the anger begins to seethe out of him. He reveals fury over many points of his life, then catches himself and scratches out a portion of it.

This is the creative mind of screenwriter Alexander Payne.

Warren lists all the things he hates about his wife, Helen (June Squibb). Shortly after, he comes home and finds her dead. Warren suddenly overlooks the many things his wife did to annoy him, and he mourns her death. It becomes a theme throughout the film.

Now with no job, no wife, and no family, Warren is desperate to find something meaningful in his thoroughly unimpressive life. He knocks around his filthy home. Later, his car breaks down. Suddenly Warren wakes up in the middle of the night and sets out on a journey of self-discovery, exploring his roots across Nebraska in his 35-foot motor home. He had planned to drive around the country with his late wife but now it becomes his home. His grocery-shopping trip is hilarious to anyone who knows what it’s like to get down to the bare necessities.

Warren’s destination is Denver, where he hopes to bridge the gulf between himself and his estranged daughter, Jeannie. Phoning from a gas station to say he’s arriving early to help with her wedding preparations, he learns that Jeannie isn’t interested.

Warren also hates the groom-to-be, Randall (Dermot Mulroney), a mediocre, underachieving waterbed salesman. Worse, Warren is appalled by the free-spirited nature and extreme candor of his soon-to-be in-laws (Kathy Bates and an almost unrecognizable Howard Hesseman).

Roberta, Randall’s loving mom, is a glorified, gutsy scene-stealer. She adores her son and painstakingly reveals personal details about her life to Warren without a moment’s concern. She decides that Warren needs a great place to be and gives him Randall’s old room:complete with waterbed! Warren has obviously not been on a waterbed before and his stiff old self wakes up the next morning with a stiff old neck! Since this is the day before the wedding his daughter is angry and accusatory. Roberta decides that some old painkillers will help him. They’re left over from her hysterectomy! Stoned and completely pain free, Warren is all but useless the rest of the day. He decides he has found glory with these pills and Roberta fires up the hot tub as soon as she gets him back to her place. Then she decides to join him — naked! God bless Kathy’s guts! I wouldn’t appear on camera looking like her!

Warren is horrified. He sleeps with his pajamas buttoned up to his neck! This is all too much for him.

The pacing of the film seemed “slow” to my husband. Thankfully, it’s not a stall kind of slow. It is the filmmaker’s way to illustrate the tired old life of Warren.

Also no one is completely normal — or is that average– in this film. If Warren were surrounded by completely normal people he would seem crazy! He has to be different than others but they have to be just as goofy as he is!

Am I going to tell you what happens the next day — the day of the wedding? HAH! I’ve told you too much already!

About Schmidt is playing in Alberta on Movie Central now:maybe over Christmas you’d like a laugh, to get over the tensions the holidays bring! One warning”?this film is rated R.

Laura Seymour first published herself, at age 8. She has since gone on to publish a cookbook for the medical condition Candida. She is working toward her B.A. (Psyc).

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