If you've ever wondered what kind of a mark you're going to leave on
this world after you're gone, you're one step ahead of Warren R. Schmidt
(Jack Nicholson). He's just retired from his job as an insurance actuary
and faces an uncertain future.
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, and
He lives with his wife of 42
years, Helen (June Squibb), but still wonders "who
is this old woman who lives with me?" He hasn't taken much interest
in anything at all except his job and now that's gone. And then, his wife
is gone too. Warren finds her dead in the kitchen and is launched on a
journey that, for most people in his position, should be one of self-discovery.
For Warren Schmidt, there is
no self to discover. Unless he's speaking to his "adopted" Tanzanian
son, Ndugu. Through his letters to the boy, whom he's adopted after
seeing one of those commercials on late-night
TV, he vents his anger about his daughter's impending wedding, the man
who replaced him at his job, and his life in general.
Classifying this movie as a comedy or a drama sells it short. It's not
really one or the other or even a combination of the two. Parts of it
are funny, but not in a knee-slapping or laugh-out-loud way. Other parts
are dramatic, but not overly so. It's more of an observation on life.
Life is sometimes funny and sometimes sad, but never extremely one or
the other when you look at it as a whole and that's a good way to describe
The part of Warren Schmidt isn't the type you'd envision Jack Nicholson
playing. Schmidt's definitely not an over-the-top personality. I'm assuming
Nicholson's playing against his usual type is why he got so much critical
acclaim for his performance. It's good, but it's not Academy Award-deserving
in my opinion. (Nicholson was nominated for an Academy Award for this
film. He lost to Adrien Brody for The Pianist.) Kathy Bates, however,
should have won for her performance as Roberta, the free-spirited, soon-to-be
Alexander Payne, who directed Sideways and Election, does allow the movie
to run a bit on the long side. Several of the detours Schmidt takes on
his journey don't really add up to anything when all is said and done.
However, the movie's ending is powerful without being contrived or overly
Overall, About Schmidt is a
solid, if slightly disappointing, movie that I can't recommended as
a "must see" film.
Woodmen Life Assurance Co. is an actual firm. Jack Nicholson filmed
his scenes at the company's offices and was given a plaque making him
an honorary Woodmen member. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)