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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A movie for grown ups that packs an emotional wallop
Jack Nicholson shines in his sensitive, tour de force performance as Warren Schmidt, the vice president of an insurance company who finds retirement anything but fulfilling. In fact, his world starts to crumble in short order, along with his relationships, his priorities and his very sanity. A superficial reading would pigeonhole Schmidt as Willy Loman retread, minus...
Published on December 26, 2002 by Lois Regen

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 Stars. Growing older and older all the time
This is quite a depressing and slow moving film, but....
The film is well acted, but the mood the film sets is even more important than the acting. The mood of the film is designed to let you experience what it is like to grow old. If you feel upset with the slow pace, that is because you are supposed to. This is a deliberate movie, structured entirely to immerse...
Published on June 25, 2003 by Jim Reid


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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A movie for grown ups that packs an emotional wallop, December 26, 2002
By 
Lois Regen (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
Jack Nicholson shines in his sensitive, tour de force performance as Warren Schmidt, the vice president of an insurance company who finds retirement anything but fulfilling. In fact, his world starts to crumble in short order, along with his relationships, his priorities and his very sanity. A superficial reading would pigeonhole Schmidt as Willy Loman retread, minus the heart condition, but Alexander Payne plumbs deeper emotional currents with this wonderful film - the sort of film that reminds you why you go to movies in the first place. To the director's credit, the film never crosses the line (so common in today's Hollywood "output") of ridiculing its characters and their sensibilities. Make no mistake: Midwestern middle-class values go under the magnifying glass, but just when the viewer starts to feel superior, zing! Payne pulls you back from the brink, and you find yourself caring deeply about Warren Schmidt and his universal predicament. The editing, the supporting cast (especially Kathy Bates), and the cinematography are well-nigh perfect, which allow Nicholson to soar. The layers of his character, a man who sees the truth but dares not express it to the people closest to him, come to a boil of mixed emotions of anger, fear and despair by the film's last scenes and transcendent finale.
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131 of 153 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE UNEXAMINED LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING..., June 8, 2003
This review is from: About Schmidt [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This film is about Warren Schmidt, a Nebraskan in his mid sixties, who is newly retired from his job as assistant vice president for an insurance firm. He is clearly a man who is not in touch with his feelings or his life, living it by the book, so to speak. He is disconnected from the reality around him, living as unobtrusively as he can. This is evident right from the beginning of the film.
His life really begins when he retires, as a series of life jarring changes occur. His wife of forty two years, Helen (June Squibb), suddenly dies. She is a domineering woman whom he loved on some level but for whom he was unable to express much feeling while she was still living, even though there were many things about her that irritated him. She, however, managed to have had a secret life of which he had not been a part. It seems that she was not all that satisfied with Schmidt, herself. It is an unwelcome surprise that colors his world when he discovers it but, at the same time, serves to begin to ease the pain of separation for him. There are some funny scenes that segue from this discovery.
Their only child, Jeannie (Hope Davis), lives in Denver, Colorado and is about to get married to Randall Hertzel (Dermot Mulroney), a dimwitted, waterbed salesman whom Schmidt cannot abide. He learns some truths about the real status of his own relationship with his daughter, Jeannie, and it is not the idealized relationship that he thought he had. In fact, he learns just how disconnected he is from his daughter, who is really a veritable stranger to him, as was his wife. Moreover, not even his best friend, Ray (Lou Cariou), was whom Schmidt thought him to be.
When Schmidt travels to Colorado for the wedding, he stays with the groom's mother, Roberta Hertzel, a much married, earthy, and passionate divorcee, who is comfortable with herself and not afraid to express her feelings. She is a sort of flower child/earth mother holdover from the late nineteen sixties, early seventies. She tries to make a connection with him but this proves to be too much for Schmidt, as he scurries for cover to the Winnebago in which he travels.
Lacking an emotional connection with any other human being, Schmidt sponsors a six year old, Tanzanian child through a charitable agency, and begins sending him letters, detailing his life as he sees it. It is more of a catharsis for Schmidt, rather than an attempt at real communication with a child. This contrivance also serves to tell the viewer just how Schmidt perceives his life. When he receives a letter with something the child has sent him, the idea that someone has actually thought of him opens the emotional floodgates for Schmidt and unleashes all those repressed feelings of anger, sadness, loss, pain, suffering, in one fell swoop.
Jack Nicholson gives an excellent performance as the repressed Midwesterner who only begins to get in touch with his feelings the end of his life spectrum. He gives a good account of a man who is making his way in, what is for him, uncharted territory. Funny, poignant and sad, it is a performance that is well nuanced. June Squibb is perfectly cast in the role of the Helen, Schmidt's wife. Her apple cheeked countenance and dumpy, matronly look exemplify the stereotypic senior citizen housewife. Helen's penchant for order and cleanliness is brought home by Ms. Squibb's performance, and Helen fittingly dies while vacuuming the laundry room.
Kathy Bates is wonderful as the somewhat bohemian, earth mother figure in the film. Her much talked about nude scene was natural and in keeping with her role. I applaud her courage in doing it, given the emphasis on thinness in Hollywood. While many reviled her for doing it, hers is a much more realistic reflection of what the body of a woman in her fifties or sixties actually looks like. Let me tell you, Jack Nicholson's body doesn't look much better either, but he was not reviled for it. There still continues to be a double standard for men and women, when it comes to excess avoirdupois.
Dermot Mulroney is terrific as the sensitive, easy going groom to be who seems to lack the full quid. Mulroney makes his character quite a likable one. Unfortunately, Hope Davis, as Jeannie Schmidt, serves to make her character a thoroughly unpleasant one. It is unclear, however, whether this was the intended effect. Howard Hesseman is wonderful as the groom's father, Larry Hertzel, and he gets a lot of mileage out of this bit part. Lou Cariou is excellent as Schmidt's erstwhile best friend, Ray.
All in all, this a film well worth watching. The baby boomers out there should take note. It is still not too late to avoid ending up like Schmidt.
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67 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Facing the "golden" years with sorrow., December 24, 2002
"About Schmidt" is a wonderful movie starring the great Jack Nicholson, who plays the hapless retiree, Warren Schmidt. Warren lives in Omaha, Nebraska, and he is put out to pasture after a long career with an insurance company. Warren hates retirement, for which he is ill-prepared. In addition, Helen, Warren's wife of forty-two years, irritates him with her annoying habits and idiosyncrasies. Worst of all, Jeannie, Warren's beloved only child, is engaged to a man whom Warren cannot stand.
When Warren suddenly becomes a widower, he takes stock of his life, and he is appalled at how empty it is. In desperation, Warren starts to write rambling letters to his Tanzanian foster child, Ndugu. (Warren sends the child twenty-two dollars a month in response to a television appeal). Even though Ndugu is six years old and cannot read, Warren pours his heart into these letters as a means of venting his anger and frustration.
Alexander Payne, who directed "About Schmidt" and shares credit for writing the fine screenplay, has done a commendable job of eliciting strong performances from an excellent cast. Kathy Bates is a hoot as Jeannie's future mother-in-law, and both Len Cariou and Howard Hesseman shine in small roles. The film, however, belongs to Jack Nicholson, who appears in practically every frame.
Nicholson acts with his entire body. He does wonders with a raised eyebrow, a half-smile, a gesture or a glance. In one hilarious scene, Nicholson does battle with a waterbed and loses. Nicholson captures the very essence of Warren Schmidt, a man who will never be ready for the first day of the rest of his life. Don't miss "About Schmidt" if you want to see one of the best performances of this or any year.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicholson Delivers Another Oscar-Caliber Performance, January 11, 2003
By 
Daniel V. Reilly (Upstate New York, United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Anyone who is a part of Corporate America can sympathize with Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson)- He's dedicated his life to his job, and mere days after retiring, he not only finds all of his files in the company's trash, but finds himself obsolete and unwanted by his former co-workers as well....His feelings of purposelessness and isolation are further compounded by the death of his Wife, and the discovery of her long-ago infidelity with his best friend.
Warren decides to hit the road in the mobile home his Wife loved, and head off to help his Daughter with her upcoming wedding. His future In-Laws, headed up by Kathy Bates, are a comedy gold-mine, and Bates provides one of the most jaw-dropping shocks/laughs in recent movie history. At it's heart, About Schmidt is a small film about the human condition, and Nicholson's wonderfully warm and restrained performance is perfect. The narrative device the film uses (Schmidt writing letters to his African Foster-child, Ndugu) allows Nicholson to show both the put-upon outer Schmidt, and the "Mad-as-hell-and-not-gonna-take-it-anymore" inner Warren. It's nice to see Jack in a more restrained role than what he's generally known for. It's a wonderful performance in a film full of wonderful performances.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars About as REAL as it gets..., November 14, 2003
By 
This review is from: About Schmidt (DVD)
"About Schmidt" is a difficult film to watch. The main character, played by Nicholson, is not easy to like: he's hopelessly self-absorbed, cowardly, and basically pathetic. During the course of the film he does manage to gain a fair bit of enlightenment and personal growth, but it's all too little too late: there are no magical, uplifting, tear-jerking transformations and irreconcilable differences reconciled, no unsurmountable problems surmounted, no crowd-pleasing Big Happy Ending to wrap it all up in a nice little bow. Schmidt is an amusing and interesting character, yet so unvarnished that you really DON'T want to identify with him.
Yet it's equally hard to DISLIKE this film, because it rings so true on so many different levels: plodding through our cutthroat corporate/work culture, the impenetrable sterility of life in the suburbs, selling out the best years of one's life and then being left with the sorry leftovers for a few years before kicking the bucket, an empty gray marriage chosen out of sheer laziness and fear...who isn't guilty of at least several of the preceding? Bleak it is, but also brutally honest, uncompromisingly authentic.
Without any flights of sentimentality or saccharine or wishful thinking, "About Schmidt" hits us with the end result of precisely such a wasted life: the enveloping grayness, emptiness, isolation and desolation of it all when two of our most powerful diversions are finally stripped away---the job and the spouse---and we can no longer run away from the lie and the farce that we've made our life into.
Think of it as a wake-up call, a "Carpe Diem" movie in reverse: this film shows you precisely what happens when you DON'T seize the day but instead choose to waste your life away.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jack's the greatest, February 23, 2003
By 
Cory D. Slipman (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
About Schmidt, although somewhat plodding, provides the perfect vehicle to demostrate that there is no finer and more talented actor on the screen today than Jack Nicholson.
Nicholson plays Warren Schmidt, a Nebraskan actuary who works for a large insurance firm. His regimented life, shaped by his henpecking wife is inexorably altered by his retirement. He gets thrown into further turmoil when returning home from running some errands he discovers that his wife has dropped dead. Nicholson's only daughter played by Hope Davis arrives from out of town for the funeral with her morally bereft loser of a fiance played nicely by Dermot Mulroney. Her upcoming betrothal is one strongly disapproved by Nicholson and a cause of friction between them. They soon leave and Nicholson is left to fend for himself.
Nicholson commences passing his time aimlessly. While cleaning out his wife's possessions, he discovers love letters documenting an adulterous affair with his best friend. He is crushed and sees his very existence as an abject failure. He has in his loneliness adopted an underprivileged foster child in a third world country through a televison ad. He writes to the 6 year old child using a diary format sprinkled with some highly inappropriate verbiage.
He decides to take a road trip in a large camper on his way to his daughter's wedding. Upon his arrival in Colorado, he meets and stays with his future son in law's dysfunctional family headed by the terrific Kathy Bates. Despite his objections, the wedding goes on without a hitch, highlighted by Nicholson's toast. By this time, Nicholson is totlly crestfallen, convinced that his life has no meaning.
His return home is met by the arrival of a letter from his foster child that reveals to him the true meaning of life, an absolutely wonderful ending to the movie.
Nicholson richly deserves an Oscar for his performance but might get snubbed because his collection of statues is vast already. Kathy Bates deserves consideration for best supporting actress.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dear Ndugu, January 23, 2003
By 
Matthew Gladney (Champaign-Urbana, IL USA) - See all my reviews
Warren Schmidt has been married to the same woman for 42 years, and has worked at Woodmen Insurance Company, in the Actuarial department, for nearly as long. The movie opens at the end of Schmidt's last day at work, before entering into the oblivion of retirement. We can tell by his body language and the look on his face that Warren is not a happy man. "About Schmidt" takes us on the quirky, sad, and funny journey of this man's new-found life, and manages to bring to the forefront a cast of unique, individual characters. The movie feels 'real', in a way that I haven't come across in cinema for a very long time.
Jack Nicholson stars as Warren Schmidt, a man who, now that he has retired, has nothing to do. He isn't a terribly deep individual, and so there isn't a lot for him to take an interest in. He appears to have no hobbies, no passions. But he is not an empty man. One day, Schmidt sees a commercial which beckons him to become a sponsor for a poor, mal-nourished African child. He answers the commercial's call, and soon starts sending monthly checks to his sponsor child, Ndugu. We get to see a picture of sweet, little Ndugu, and Schmidt decides to start sending the youth regular letters, discussing the events currently going on in his life. This allows for a nice, connective narration for the film, and it is used to good effect.
Schmidt's wife had bought an Adventurer for the two of them to travel the country in during their retiring years. Unfortunately, Mrs. Schmidt passes away, and Warren is left to his own devices. We see the stages of grief pass through the widower, and Nicholson excels with his portrayal of the troubled, lonely man. Eventually, Schmidt decides to take the Adventurer out by himself, and then the film becomes somewhat of a road movie. He meets some very interesting people along his journey, and visits some very real locales across the American midwest. The big event looming in Schmidt's life is the wedding of his daughter to a man that he can't stand, but seems unable to convince his daughter not to marry. The groom's family is a hoot. You'll have to see them to believe them.
Everything comes together in this movie. Nicholson implodes exquisitely as Schmidt, and is both humorous and sympathetic to watch. June Squibb, as Schmidt's wife, is so very sweet. Though she isn't in the film much, her character leaves a lasting memory. I loved Dermut Mulroney as Schmidt's future son-in-law, Randall . He made that character his own. Randall's a sweet guy, but would be terrifying to any woman's father that he met. And we can't forget Kathy Bates. She is not in the movie much, either, but also leaves a marked imprint upon the film. Be prepared to see her dis-robed, however. It is quite... memorable.
"About Schmidt" is a near-perfect film. Understand that it is drama *and* a comedy. There are very rarely guffaw-inducing moments, but there are quite a few instances that will keep you chuckling to no end. This is one of the hardest kind of movies to do. To balance humor and solemnity is not an easy task, and all involved pull it off wonderfully. Alexander Payne deserves recognition for his screenplay, and also for his direction of the film. All of the actors make their characters seem quite real. We feel for them, and laugh along with them.
And don't forget little Ndugu. We know that he, just like us, will always care about Schmidt.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Common people's lives make riveting fairy-tales, October 18, 2005
By 
OverTheMoon (overthemoonreview@hotmail.com) - See all my reviews
This review is from: About Schmidt (DVD)
Director Alexander Payne can take a simple premise, a simple life, and make it so much more than simple by just letting characters be themselves in the real world (see "Sideways" for one of the best buddy movies ever made). Here an aging retiree, Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson), tries to rekindle his childhood memories after his wife dies and having bought a new RV. His future becomes more uncertain and he finds himself coming to terms with his daughter's marriage to a man he has no love for. Schmidt's estrangement takes him places in his RV and sees him doing things that his regular nine to five had hidden. The despair is neatly assorted with many comedy moments, mostly negligible instances that make for big scenes. Before we know it the audience finds themselves very much attached to a man who could be you!

This is also Nicholson as you have not seen him before (and for a guy who has been in 60 movies, that is no small feat). There is no Easy Rider, George Hanson, here. Instead we see what appears to be one of Hollywood's most loved actors wearing granddad's hide and looking as if he might keel over at the next bend. You will have a tendency to laugh in horror throughout most of it.

For this reason `About Schmidt' is mandatory viewing for all ages. For those looking forward to their long years, this is an example of what to expect and what you can do to make things a little easier for yourself and your family. For those getting on in years it can be something they can easily relate too. See it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 Stars. Growing older and older all the time, June 25, 2003
This review is from: About Schmidt (DVD)
This is quite a depressing and slow moving film, but....
The film is well acted, but the mood the film sets is even more important than the acting. The mood of the film is designed to let you experience what it is like to grow old. If you feel upset with the slow pace, that is because you are supposed to. This is a deliberate movie, structured entirely to immerse you in the misery and lonliness of not being needed.
But... There is hope at the end. I don't want to give away any of the plot, but the movie is not wholly depressing. It is actually a comedy, but not in any sense that a young and impatient person like myself will appreciate.
This movie illuminates what awaits us all at the end of a failed life, but demonstrates that there is still hope for us all and that everyone still has choices to make in their lives, no matter how hopeless things get.
This movie is not light-hearted, it is quite sombre, but it is important to watch, since it contains a few good life lessons.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece from a Masterful Actor, July 14, 2003
By 
PR GUY "PR Guy" (Redlands, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: About Schmidt (DVD)
Why Jack Nicholson didn't earn the Best Actor Award from the Academy of Arts and Sciences last year, I will never understand. Because my secretary wanted me to share with her the movie "About Schmidt", I watched it again tonight from a totally different perspective. "About Schmidt" is a perfect film. It has no flaws. It is a masterpiece. It will depress you if you are feeling old...will invigorate you if you are young. If you have even an ounce of compassion and love, it will make you cry. (I cried more this time than the first).

Yes...Jack was nominated for Best Actor and the film was nominated for Best Picture of 2002. In a league of his own, Jack Nicholson has never been more "human" than in "About Schmidt".

It is a story of life...aging...the meaning of life when you are young...when you grow old. It is a story of loneliness...coping with it...and understanding that "your" life goes beyond "your" life. I'm not making sense, huh?

My dearest friend Darlene (who is on this e-mail trail with all of us) would appreciate this film more than I. The two of us conjoined (what a great word for Darlene and I), when age first set in. We were in our glory years (40ish), and we spent moments together that no one in the universe could replicate. Jack Nicholson proved me wrong. He sent me back in time and challenged me to grasp the meaning of life. As he states so solemnly in this classic..."Appreciate what you have while you have it."

This movie is great therapy for troubled couples. It is a masterpiece for the young and old. You can look back, ahead...even at your current existence and come to the realization that "About Schmidt" is "About You".

Watch this flick with a box of Kleenex. Jack will make you laugh...make you cry. He is masterful in this masterpiece.

You will never forget six-year-old Ndugu Umbo from Tanzania.

You will never forget the hot tub scene when he goes to his daughter's wedding.

You will never forget the scene where his wife of 42-years is vacuuming their home.

In short...you will neve forget "About Schmidt". It is a perfect movie filled with life's thread. It takes you on a path (young or old), where you have been, want to be, will be, and hopefully should be, to enjoy the total experience of life---as we know it.

If there's one movie review you've read from me...please watch "About Schmidt". Why JN didn't win the Academy Award I'll never know. This guy is awesome.
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About Schmidt
About Schmidt by Alexander Payne (DVD - 2003)
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