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Overall Rating

Awesome: 18.49%
Worth A Look34.93%
Just Average: 22.6%
Pretty Crappy: 17.81%
Sucks: 6.16%

11 reviews, 80 user ratings

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About Schmidt
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by Rob Gonsalves

"This is nothing Nicholson hasn't done before, and better."
3 stars

Back in 2002, Jack Nicholson was cloaked in respectful critical and Oscar-watcher buzz for exactly the wrong performance. People responded to his work as the retired, depressive widower Warren Schmidt in "About Schmidt" as if he'd never done anything like it before -- as if he'd never dialed himself down and given a muted, pained performance.

For that, I refer you to his outstanding work under the direction of Sean Penn: The Crossing Guard (1995) and The Pledge (2001), neither of which got much attention. Why here? Why this draggy, overcast, simplistic drama? Is it Nicholson's courage in wearing his hair in a combover of such deep ugliness that it puts Peter Jackson's Uruk-hai to shame?

Warren Schmidt, at 66, is dissatisfied with his life. You can tell because director Alexander Payne and his writing partner Jim Taylor make every effort to surround Warren in big, lonely spaces that still feel cramped -- his suddenly half-empty house, the mammoth Winnebago he drives from Omaha to Denver for the wedding of his daughter (Hope Davis in a bad mood that seems to have carried over from Hearts in Atlantis) to a dopey mullethead (Dermot Mulroney). This trip is somewhat out of character for Warren, who's so unaccustomed to movement that the undulations of a water bed nearly cripple him. Warren is a self-pitying lump at the center of an overlong movie that has nothing in particular to say about his plight.

Payne and Taylor previously crafted two deft, razor-sharp satires -- Citizen Ruth (1996) and Election (1999) -- and one wants to respond to About Schmidt as some sort of comment on the emptiness of a lifelong company man whose routine is doubly shattered when he finds himself minus an occupation and a wife. If the road trip is supposed to give Warren a sense of purpose, as a murder gave Nicholson's retired cop in The Pledge renewed vigor, it doesn't seem to. Warren holds everything in; the only person he opens up to is Ndugu, a six-year-old African boy he's sponsoring by mail. Along with his $22 monthly checks, he sends letters to Ndugu in which his seething resentment of his life is at odds with the neutrally dyspeptic face he wears around everyone else.

Mostly, the satire here amounts to nudging us into feeling superior to other people's lives. There are also crude touches like a urine motif: Warren bitterly celebrates his new independence by pissing on the toilet seat; the next time we see him relieving himself it's after he's made a speech of glowing tribute to the newlyweds, a lie to make his daughter happy on her wedding day. Payne's cold eye freezes our responses when he tries for warmth. What are we supposed to make of the sexually liberated mother-of-the-groom, played by Kathy Bates in her usual let's-cut-the-crap mode? Bates, easily the best element of the movie, represents what Warren recoils from -- spontaneity, outspokenness -- because he sorely lacks it, but Payne undercuts her in subtle ways by clothing her in gauche outfits, or by not clothing her at all.

Through this aimless movie drifts Nicholson, a flabby balloon full of toxic self-hate. This performance is a mere faint echo of the sharp self-loathing he lacerated us with in The Crossing Guard. Nicholson's films with Sean Penn show him as a real actor still capable of surprise. About Schmidt is just Jack coasting in a role as tailor-made for him as the neurotic Melvin Udall in As Good As It Gets.

You may recall that for his audience-tickling efforts in that film, Nicholson grabbed his third Oscar; he was nominated for a fourth for the audience-reassuring Warren Schmidt, whose pain at wasting his life is vague enough not to scare anyone off and distant enough from Nicholson himself -- who celebrated his forty-fifth year of film acting in 2003 -- to let us know he's just playing a part that has nothing to do with him.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6456&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/24/06 21:20:40
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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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