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About Schmidt

Starring: Jack Nicolson, Hope Davis Kathy Bates, Dermot Mulroney and Howard Hesseman.
Directed by: Alexander Payne
Rated: R


About Schmidt is oddly endearing. Jack Nicholson is finally not Jack Nicholson. The smirk is gone. He actually also accomplished this in Sean Penn's The Pledge - but here he really IS this old fart Warren Schmidt.

Warren's a nondescript everyman's man; a sixty-six year old middle America milk toast fellow who has never done anything really remarkable and has always just been. Schmidt finds himself in the middle of new chapters in his life -suddenly and without preparation. He has just retired from a job, we get the idea, is his life. His only daughter is about to marry beneath her. And worse of all he discovers he really does love his wife of 42 years.

So Warren Schmidt is having all these huge changes thrown at him. He decides to focus on breaking up his daughter's marriage. Right. Not so smart…

Naturally his daughter, Jeannie (Hope Davis) is mad for her beau-to-be, Randall (Dermot Mulroney). Schmidt only sees a mullet wearing, ne'r do well of a common garden variety schlubb that has trouble getting through a two weeks Vocational Tech certificate course on using a VCR. Randall in reality is a simple man with a heart of gold.

Warren is searching for something to make his twilight years meaningful. He starts to sponsor a Tanzanian child, Ndugo Umbo, ala one of those 22.00 a month programs by ChildReach Foundation. He writes these long-winded and blunt letters to the six-year-old child. These letter's to Ndugo act as our narration through his journey of self-discovery.

When Schmidt actually decides (in the middle of a sleepless night) to set out to "help" his daughter this sometimes warm, unexpectedly witty and often engaging film really starts to roll.

We feel privy to Schmidt's changes as he grows (apparently) for the first time in his life. His walls are crumbling in and at times there's even a pang of sadness for this guy. But before you get too depressed for him we all meet Randall's mom Roberta Hertzel (Kathy Bates).

Roberta is a free spirit and polar opposite of Schmidt. The awkwardness of the two families meeting is one of the finest scenes on film. Of course look at the cast…

There's no murders, no car chases, no sex. About Schmidt is just that, about Schmidt. It's a slow moving delicate story that creeps into your heart; if you let it.

Nicholson was dynamic. A lesser lead could have bored us to tears and troughing on snacks from the forbidden theater menu. It was nice to see the old man show us why he's the legend he is. Did ya know Jackie The Robust use to be this huge sex symbol? He deserved it, trust me, see Witches of Eastwick. Now he's decided (unlike say Mick Jagger) it's time to act his age and let the mankebab within relax and stop grossing out the audiences. Bravo! I will wager he and Nic Cage will be in battle next spring over the coveted little Oscar.

Kathy Bates is perfection, as always. Here she gets to exercise her comedy skills and of course she nails it.

Hope Davis is huge emerging talent. Her face gives great camera! Hope has that rare ability to say a thousand words without uttering a syllable. Watch out for this gal.

Dermot Mulroney is devilishly handsome in real life. Here? Dear god he really done good as a black Reebok wearin'- mullet sporting- air guitar playing- oblivious dude guy. There are so many of these Randall's in the world I am sure all Dermot had to do was hit a local rock and roll bar on a Saturday night for research. You could practically hear "Rock Me Like a Hurricane" each time he graced the screen…or maybe that was just me in some horrible flashback of an erroneous choice of evening's entertainment years before wielding it's mullet wearing head! Argh.

This film is not for everyone because it is a tad slow; but it grows on you. For those who like to see actors doing their job well, and subtle little yarns about people discovering themselves About Schmidt is a must see. For the "smash-'em-up-real-good" lots? You'd best go see James Bond again or The Hot Chick.

Snack Recommendation: Dairy Queen Blizzard w/ Reese's pieces and cookie dough.

 

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