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About Schmidt

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: About Schmidt

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis
Director: Alexander Payne
Rated: R
RunTime: 124 Minutes
Release Date: January 2003
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Kathy Bates, Howard Hesseman, Dermot Mulroney, Len Cariou, June Squibb

Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

The glory of this character study is the magnificent Jack Nicholson. As 66 year-old Warren Schmidt, a retired Omaha insurance company executive, he questions the significance of his life. He's irritated by his wife (June Squibb) of 42 years and has no desire to roam around the country in their 35-foot Winnebago. Watching television late one night, he impulsively signs up with Childreach as a foster parent. Then in a series of wildly inappropriate letters to Ndugu Umbo, an illiterate six year-old Tanzanian boy, Schmidt pours his anger, frustration and remorse. Most of all, he's disappointed that his beloved and only daughter (Hope Davis) is about to marry Randall Hertzel (Dermot Mulroney), a dimwitted loser who sells waterbeds. Hoping to change her mind, he drives to Denver, where he discovers more about what life really means than he ever imagined.

What ensures our fixation on the screen is Jack, Jack, Jack. He seems totally liberated as an actor. We seem to be gazing right into his soul as he delivers a ferociously riveting, Oscar-caliber performance. In a supporting role that includes a comic, nude hot-tub scene, Kathy Bates is amazing and pitch-perfect, as are the rest of the cast. Problem is: filmmakers Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor's ("Citizen Ruth," "Election") bleak script which depicts America's heartland as a contemporary bastion of tacky, beaten-down boredom, observing and commenting on the pathetic emptiness and alienation of those facing retirement age. Ultimately, it's a depressing, existential soul-searching vision of a sad, lonely man who is desperate to discover a shred of purpose. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "About Schmidt" is a perceptive, satirical, yet profoundly affecting 9 - and Jack Nicholson's performance is one of the season's must-sees.

Copyright 2002 Susan Granger

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