- Alexander Payne
- Reviewed by
- José Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) is a man in his 60’s who just retired. His plan is to travel along with his wife Helen (June Squibb) through the country. But then a very unfortunate event takes place and Warren is forced to reconsider everything about his life, including his relationship with his daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis). As it happens she is about to marry a dork (Dermot Mulroney) with a foul-mouthed mother (Kathy Bates), something he just can’t understand.
Going into this movie I was expecting it to be an out-there comedy. Little did I know it would be the thoughtful, quiet drama with some bursts of neat satire that it is. About Schmidt is actually a slow movie. It is so well-written that every moment rings true and every moment has some significance. It is the kind of movie that stays with you. As of me, the more I think about it the more I like it.
About Schmidt tells a simple story. It is about an ordinary man, an old man, who is just about to start a completely new life. Writer/director Payne has a keen eye for American society. The way he satirizes the American way in such a classy way is a pleasure to watch. He really knows the feeling, the details, the absurdity of it all. And he really manages to get a lot of laughs from unexpected little moments that could happen to anyone. Most amazing of all, he manages to bring his movie with just about the right tone, that of dramatic momentum with bursts of laughter that don’t seem out of place.
To tell you the truth, when the movie was over I didn’t completely understand what the Ndugu subplot was all about. Sure, it was nice, but did it serve the movie? And then it hit me! This movie is about second chances. It is about redemption. It is about not giving up and always finding something to make your life meaningful. Just when you think you’re pretty much a failure, there’s always something or someone that doesn’t think that way of you. There’s always hope.
Jack Nicholson just got himself a record Oscar nomination for his performance as Warren Schmidt. I was quite sure I had seen everything there was to him from his previous movies, but I was pleasantly surprised to realize how layered and controlled his performance is here. You have really never ever seen Jack quite like this. To start off he plays an old man, he makes that transition. And then he just lets it go and delivers some amazing moments such as that very last shot which would’ve been enough to get him all the awards he deserves.
An excellent supporting cast accompanies Jack through the road trip he embarks on. The best of all being Kathy Bates, who appears late in the movie but steals every scene she’s in with a flamboyant, no-holds no-barriers turn.
A profound experience in itself.
“Larry, we've been welcomed by you, thank you so much, now would you please just drink your fucking milk and shut the fuck up?”
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