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About Schmidt VHS
Warren Schmidt (Nicholson) is about to taste a not so sweet slice of life. When he retired, he and his wife Helen had big plans, but an unexpected twist changed everything. Now, all of Schmidt's attention is focused his daughter's upcoming wedding to a loser waterbed salesman. From meeting hippie parents to sponsoring a Tanzanian foster child, Schmidt embarks on a search for answers...and discovers that life is full of trick questions.
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Basically, it is about a man, who has to take stock of his life after having been set out to pasture (retired) by his company, where he was a Vice President, losing his wife and trying to come to terms with the man his daughter is in love with.
The Schmidt has been out of touch with his feelings for probably most of his life, loving his life with mid west values and responsibilities. Only after all these things hit at once does Schmidt begin to realize that this is not all life is about.
Feeling totally alone, he starts writing a 6 year old Tanzanian child (very inappropriately I might add)and telling them his thoughts, as he has no one he can talk to. I found that most fascinating.
We watch Schmidt and wonder if he will ever be prepared to take the first step of a new life. Very good movie.
Before winning the adapted screenwriting Oscar for his wine country dramedy, Sideways, and after his nomination for the excellent Election, Alexandar Payne cowrote and directed this underrated dramedy with his oft-writing partner Jim Taylor. Overshadowed by a notorious nude scene by Kathy Bates in the late second act of the movie, it's often forgotten that Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates were both nominated for Oscars and Jack Nicholson won a Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a drama (to which Nicholson said during his acceptance speech, "I'm a little surprised, I thought we had made a comedy"). First picking up this movie I can't really say that I knew what to expect going in, but that's also part of what made me pick up this movie in the first place.
What I got, for all the fuss about Kathy Bates, was a poignant character study about a very ordinary man in his 60's. I'm sure a lot of people don't feel the same way, after all some of Warren's actions are deplorable, but he's a very human character. He's an ordinary man who wants to be extraordinary about him, and so inside he pines to make a difference in the world. The movie does a great job, as well as Nicholson playing the role to a tee, of showing a man that even at his happiest carries around the weight of never having accomplished anything in his life to be proud of as he also confronts his own mortality. In the end the movie reminds us that we don't have to do big great things to make a difference in the world, though, even small gestures can make the world around us a better place.
While in the end the overall message of the movie can be considered slightly corny, I still have to say that I recommend this movie. At times it's quite funny, and the acting is phenomenal. Even with a corny message, which does not overbear the plot or tone of the movie, sometimes we do need to be reminded of these things at times. Give it a try, if you like Payne's other films like Sideways and Election you'll probably enjoy this, and it's also one of Nicholson's best later career performances.
Following the sudden passing of his wife of over 40 years, as well as his retirement, the 66-year-old Schmidt goes through the emotionally wrenching process of seeing his life for what it has been, warts and all. Jack Nicholson's portrayal of the Warren Schmidt character is absolutely brilliant, and Kathy Bates is great also and extremely funny. As with his previous movie "Election", Payne displays a fondness for making substantial use of spoken voiceovers, a tactic that pays off hugely here--Nicholson does a wonderful job with Schmidt's narrations of handwritten letters to a Tazmanian foster child named Ndugu, which serve as a brillant way of letting the viewer get inside Schmidt's mind and pave the way for the heart-wrenching closing scene. Even the musical score is expertly done and a lot of fun, complementing the sly transitions of the movie perfectly.
If you're disappointed that "About Schmidt" isn't a lightweight comedy to watch while throwing down a few beers on your day off, then that's your loss--this is a powerful movie that serious viewers will appreciate and get a great deal of satisfaction from.
Nicholson and Bates were each nominated for Academy Awards for their performances here, for best actor and best supporting actress respectively--neither won, but each of them certainly deserved to.
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