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Awesome: 18.49%
Worth A Look34.93%
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Pretty Crappy: 17.81%
Sucks: 6.16%

11 reviews, 80 user ratings

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About Schmidt
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by Robert Flaxman

"Dull and duller."
2 stars

Here's what Warren Schmidt orders at Dairy Queen: a medium Blizzard with vanilla ice cream, Reese's Pieces, and cookie dough. Are you excited yet?

The problem with About Schmidt, the latest film from writer/director Alexander Payne (Election), is that it is far too meticulous in its depiction of Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson)'s life as he attempts to adjust to retirement. Attempting to fill the void, he signs up for the Child Reach program, becoming the foster parent to Ndugu, a six-year-old Tanzanian boy to whom Schmidt writes long, rambling letters he uses to express his frustrations over his now-miserable life. The other half of his time is spent trying, completely unsuccessfully, to stop his only daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) from marrying Randall (Dermot Mulroney), a dim-witted waterbed salesman.

That's about the entire plot. The film relies on Schmidt's semi-breakdown after his wife dies unexpectedly to carry most of it, and the emotional impact just isn't there. The idea is that Schmidt didn't know how good he had it when his wife was still around - but by and large the audience doesn't see that. All that's shown, because of the film's essentially first-person nature, is Schmidt's annoyance with his wife. When she's gone, Schmidt lets the house become a mess and lives on frozen dinners, but just as he begins to realize how much he misses his wife, he discovers a thirty-year-old affair between his wife and best friend, and all that goes out the window.

Payne does an excellent job of making the audience feel like they are living Warren Schmidt's boring, boring life. Unfortunately, this makes the film something of an ordeal to sit through, particularly since the plot does not fly off the screen and grab the viewer. Filmgoers could be forgiven for exiting the theater feeling like they had been there since sometime that morning.

In fact, the film would probably be nearly unwatchable were it not for Nicholson. With Schmidt onscreen in practically every frame, Nicholson needs to deliver a strong performance, and he does. He brings a subtlety to Schmidt, the ability to convey with a facial expression what other actors might have a tough time communicating even with a line of dialogue. Schmidt's desperation, his loneliness, his frustration - all of it is readily accessible with a single look at Nicholson.

Nicholson can and does veer between the comic and tragic with expertise; the same cannot really be said of the film, which switches a bit clumsily from emotional scenes to sections of outright farce, such as when Schmidt injures his back sleeping on a waterbed and is given Percodan by Randall's mother Roberta (Kathy Bates). It's a funny segment, but it's a bit out of touch with other parts of the film, which even when funny keep the emotion close at hand.

Another problem is a relatively unlikable protagonist. As good as Nicholson's performance is, just as with Jim McAllister in Election, the audience does not find itself rooting for the main character - instead, the wish is that he would "figure it out." McAllister never really figures it out in Election, and it takes Schmidt until the final scene to realize his problem, which could easily have been deduced by the audience well in advance. Thus two hours have passed and all the audience has seen is that Warren Schmidt is too short-sighted to make a simple connection that would have a profound impact on his life.

About Schmidt has one major insight to make. That it takes a stupefyingly long time to make it is a problem that might have been solved by focusing less on the minutiae of Schmidt's life, which while occasionally important to understand the man are made the focal point of the film, something that is significantly to its detriment.

Nicholson's performance can't bail About Schmidt out. It just keeps the film from going totally to waste.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6456&reviewer=385
originally posted: 10/11/04 15:33:40
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User Comments

6/21/15 David Hollingsworth A darkly funny, depressing, but brilliant movie 5 stars
6/17/11 Quigley Nicholson reveals again that he is an artist, an artist that few can match. Great film. 5 stars
5/18/11 Anonymous Surprisingly very entertaining and original 4 stars
7/25/09 the dork knight A drab, depressing portrait. Yes, the last scene is nice. 3 stars
7/14/09 faiche13 Not terribly exciting but yeah, I cried 3 stars
9/14/07 Alyssa Hale Jack did his best with what he had to work with, I guess. 3 stars
6/29/06 MP Bartley Nicholson should really be polishing his fourth oscar now. Warm, witty and poignant. 4 stars
6/21/06 TB He was just lonely old man 5 stars
12/11/05 Bad Critic Really overall just average. I expected more from Payne. 3 stars
11/21/05 Kurtis J. Beard Nicholson is a blessing. See this film and everything else Payne has done. 4 stars
10/04/05 Jesse Taylor Such a memorable movie. Nicholson is perfect. 5 stars
9/19/05 sbpat21 Perfect 5 stars
9/13/05 ray mero Never saw an over the hill business guy as freakish as Nicholson in this flick. 2 stars
8/06/05 Indrid Cold Is it just me, or is Alexander Payne the most reliable director of 21st century? 4 stars
7/31/05 Beth Kerrick Surprisingly entertaining, dry humor. Loved the letter to the orphan!! 4 stars
7/24/05 DM Slow but very well-acted. Great last scene. 4 stars
7/23/05 Carolyn Rathburn It was an alright movie, loved Kathy Bates courage. 4 stars
7/16/05 Charlene Javier Brilliant Jack. Brilliant film. 5 stars
7/04/05 R.W. Welch Sardonic look at retirement. Expertly acted, often funny. Often sad. 4 stars
2/05/05 Jeff Anderson Forget the godawful ANGER MANAGEMENT, this is & will always be Nicholson's finest work!!!!! 5 stars
2/01/05 BobbysRedQueen Jack's writing to his sponsered child was funny ! 4 stars
12/08/04 frosty Definitely a "thinky" movie. Good, though. 4 stars
10/21/04 T good God boring. cannot get all the way thru it. 2 stars
10/17/04 Miles Morley If you like full frontals of old women, this flicks yours! What a boring piece of... 1 stars
10/16/04 kitfo1 for once, Jack Nicholson acts, instead of just being Jack Nicholson 4 stars
10/16/04 Charlene Javier Bravo! 5 stars
9/29/04 Steve Newman disappointed - wont ever watch again 3 stars
9/25/04 Mel Gibson's Boyfriend Kathy Bates makes even crap like this almost tolerable 3 stars
9/03/04 T.B. It funny how he write about his job 4 stars
8/31/04 Pinkline Jones Not one of Jack's better films - ok 3 stars
7/15/04 Recurring Dream made me seriously think about what 'life' all adds up to in the end(?)...and i laughed too. 4 stars
7/04/04 Bruce Depressing and Boring. Wished he would just end it all. 2 stars
4/24/04 Carla boring, hardly funny 2 stars
2/14/04 beard its damn funny. BUT IT ISN'T 4 stars
1/28/04 chris. might be slow, but a great character study 4 stars
1/20/04 Betty White Brilliant, sad film with Nicholson & Bates tour-de-forces. 5 stars
10/17/03 Josh Standlee Pretty funny, yet I still miss Jack Nicholson as Jack Torance! 3 stars
10/02/03 the Grinch If you left it, you missed the payoff...cinematically uncomfortable, but very good 4 stars
8/13/03 Kooler Sly, subtle, brilliantly shot. Incredibly sad. 5 stars
8/12/03 Nancy295 Interesting but once was enough. 3 stars
8/04/03 Dark Barøn Touching. I've got to get a life before I become like Schmidt. 5 stars
7/09/03 6th Sense Slow moving and overrated! 2 stars
7/08/03 Roy Absolutely horrible. Not funny, not dramatic, just plain horrible. 1 stars
6/20/03 joker-smoker-toker blah! worste jack nicholson movie period! 1 stars
6/17/03 Erin I left in the middle I thought it was so stupid.Maybe I missed the good stuff if any 1 stars
6/12/03 Allen But did we have to see Kathy Bates undressed? Uuuulllllghhhhh!!!!!! 5 stars
6/09/03 Jack Bourbon Wow! What an ending. 5 stars
6/08/03 The Chronic Love Nicholson!! Whats not to like about the movie. 5 stars
4/10/03 Tam A slightly depressing film with an anti-climax of an ending, but Nicholson & Bates were gr8 3 stars
3/23/03 Winthrop J Applesmythe III hey, reviewer: it's (NNN-DOO-GOO) 4 stars
3/11/03 James Renwick Disappointing. Its as simple as that 2 stars
3/03/03 Eschenennock Manville Good interest-keeper for a film with anti-climactic ending. 4 stars
2/28/03 matt disappointing 2 stars
2/21/03 Jim the movie geek The depresssing bits probably won out over the uplifting bits. Jack was great. 4 stars
2/20/03 A. Kane Jack's great. A good low-key, subversive film. 4 stars
2/19/03 catatafish I kept waiting for Jack to lose it in typical Jack style and was angry when he didn't 3 stars
2/15/03 John Bale A gentle comedy about families and aging. Nicholson's top performance 5 stars
2/13/03 Andrew Carden Great Performances By Bates and Nicholson Light Up The Film 5 stars
2/12/03 r. dassow about shmidt is about shit 2 stars
2/12/03 mattski just too shapeless although the ending may well be secretly cynical in an awesome way 3 stars
2/10/03 Greyjack Two stars if you go to movies purely for escapism, five if you dig poignant character films 5 stars
2/08/03 jeffreyman Bergmanesque with laughs 5 stars
2/07/03 mr. Pink One of the best movies of 2002! Why the fuck is this underrated! Morons!!! 5 stars
2/04/03 Krysiek Interesting, though depressing. Gives food for thought. Not a comedy! 4 stars
2/03/03 gus pesimism raping optimism in the ass over a garbage can. awful (& i;m a pesimist) 1 stars
1/31/03 Suzz a rather average film not up to all the hype 3 stars
1/31/03 Phil M. Aficionado Somehow I expected more, but maybe less is what it is really all about. Go Jack! 4 stars
1/31/03 .Choadushouse. Humorous...yet incredibally powerful and depressing! Makes me never want to get old! 4 stars
1/29/03 Evan Who wants to see a movie about a pathetic person who doesn't progress. I sure don't. 1 stars
1/28/03 Bill Head [This should be called "I'm Old, Whoopty Fuck"] Kathy Bates is such a gynecological deformity. Nicholson is the green discharge. 1 stars
1/19/03 FrayLo there's so much more to jack's character that's not said but implied... great movie. 4 stars
1/16/03 Heather An acquired taste, great acting from Jack and you get to see Kathy Bates buck naked 5 stars
1/14/03 Jack de Nero more hollywood crap 1 stars
1/10/03 Butterbean A tad overrated. Kathy Bate's nudity explains why Nicholson looks like that in the poster. 3 stars
1/08/03 OMFG THIS IS TEH SUCKES 1 stars
1/08/03 J get this jackass wintermute off of this site, he's obviously a dumbfuck. 4 stars
1/08/03 Jack Nicholson is god I expected this to be a vehicle for The Jack, but it's much more. Movie of the year, man. 5 stars
1/08/03 Mr Math Wintermute rules! 3 stars
1/05/03 sarah nicholson actually ACTS. who woulda thunk it? 4 stars
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  13-Dec-2002 (R)



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