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About Schmidt (2002)

Warren Schmidt takes a journey to see his daughter and finds himself on the way.

Directed by:

Alexander Payne

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 120 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

Jack Nicholson stars as Warren Schmidt, a newly-retired insurance broker from Omaha who is finding that his life to date hasn't had the meaning he had hoped for when young. After his retirement, he returns to the office to see if he can be of some help, but finds that he is redundant – the new younger incumbent has seamlessly taken his place. On his return home, he finds his wife of 42 years unexpectedly dead on the floor. To make things worse, his daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) announces that she is getting married to a man he doesn't really think much of called Randall Hertzel (Dermot Mulroney). Suddenly all the constants in his life are disappearing. He sets out on a road trip in his Winnebago to attend the wedding in Denver, stopping off at some of the places that had meaning in his younger life.

Lonely and out-of-touch, Schmidt attempts to make meaningful contact with the people he meets along the way but doesn't really know how. The only person he can tell everything to is Ndugu, a small African child that Schmidt has sponsored and writes to, so he pours out his heart on paper. The child will never understand his problems, nor will he ever understand what a poverty-stricken third-world child faces, however for the time being Ndugu is the closest thing Schmidt has to a real human contact. Schmidt will need to deal with his feelings about the wedding before he leads his daughter to the altar, and to come to terms with his life to date before he can enjoy the rest of his retirement.

'About Schmidt' is a gentle and touching comedy designed to produce smiles rather than belly laughs, but certainly is none the worse for it. The story is touching and compelling, full of the real feelings that can suddenly strike when everything about a person's life changes. Although the plot never entirely reaches a resolution, this fits perfectly with Schmidt's life – it is clear that by the film's end he is only starting to learn what his life is about, and his story will continue off-screen. The supporting cast are all quite special, however it is Jack Nicholson's broad shoulders that carry this film from beginning to end – 'About Schmidt' is easily amongst his finest works. Nicholson makes the character of Schmidt genuine and likeable, clearly showing his confusion with the turns his life has taken, without resorting to the 'extreme Nicholson' acting for which he is justly famous.

It's Got: A sensitive, restrained and in all ways outstanding performance from Jack Nicholson.

It Needs: To be watched without expectations that it will provide a resolution.

DVD Extras The Woodmen Tower sequences offer a fascinating insight into the art of film editing. Extras: Deleted scenes, Woodmen Tower sequences, Theatrical trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 4/10

Alternatives:

Death of a Salesman., Magnolia, The Royal Tennenbaums

Summary

Jack Nicholson needs little help to make the most of this unusual tale of a journey of self-discovery.

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