Reviewed by: Halyna Barannik
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Kathy Bates, Howard Hesseman | Directed by: Alexander Payne | Produced by: Harry Gittes, Michael Besman | Written by: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor | Distributor: New Line Cinema
“About Schmidt” is a pleasingly original approach to the topic of retirement. Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) retires and then has to face the rest of his life. The movie depicts a fairly short span of time, maybe a month or less, focusing on the actual retirement/party, the new life without the job as an executive with an insurance company, the sudden death of his spouse, and the marriage of his daughter and only child.
The loneliness that Warren feels is palpable. In a surprising twist to the story line, Warren signs up to be a foster parent to a child in Africa, and writes letters to the little boy, in which he completely inappropriately expresses all his innermost thoughts and feelings and new experiences. The letters contribute to the film’s narrative. They are touching and funny.
After his wife’s sudden death, Warren travels in a motor home to attend his daughter’s wedding. His daughter Joanie (Hope Davis) is marrying Randall (Dermot Mulroney), a waterbed salesman. Randall’s mother (Kathy Bates) hosts Warren to dinner and a hot tub. Intertwined with all the activity that pertains to the retirement, the wedding, the meeting with Randall’s family, is the drama of Warren Schmidt trying to cope with all his many losses and changes. Nicholson deftly portrays a man struggling to do right by everyone. Despite the unfortunate fact that his daughter is living with her fiance, and Randall’s mother is quite raunchy and lewd in word and manner, “About Schmidt” is not very offensive for the mature Christian audience. Despite his moment of weakness when he makes a sexual advance to a married woman, Warren Schmidt is a basically decent man, at least the way Nicholson plays him. The screenplay is a sensitive one which offsets the worldly society in which the movie is set.
This film is a thought-provoking drama that captures the shock of retirement. It has some very funny moments. A brief nude scene with Kathy Bates and some profanity justify the R rating.