68 of 80 people found the following review helpful
Facing the "golden" years with sorrow.,
"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.