Review by Michael Jacobson
Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Kathy Bates
Director: Alexander Payne
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: Deleted Scenes, Trailers
Length: 124 Minutes
Release Date: June 3, 2003
most you can hope for is to try and make a difference..."
Nicholson is a movie star and an American icon...but first and foremost, he is
an actor. It's easy for we fans
to take him for granted, having grown accustomed to his wily grin and
mischievous eyes, and the characters he tends to play with gusto and energy.
He's always great, but best of all, he's always Jack.
yet despite his overt charisma, he still has an uncanny ability of being able to
disappear into a character when he wants to. Sometimes, the roles call for the Jack we know and love.
Other times, they call for something more.
amazing to me as a long time admirer to find a part Jack plays that's
completely surprising. About
Schmidt is many things...but one thing it isn't is the same old
Jack. Here, the veteran actor finds
a character that requires him to abandon everything that...well, makes Jack
Jack. Even in his senior years,
he's always exhibits a sly charm and energy.
In this movie, perhaps for the first time, he really comes across as old
first meet Warren Schmidt as it seems the best of his life is behind him...and
feel it wasn't all that great. He
stares at the clock in his office without expression as it clicks away the final
seconds of his employment as an insurance man. After a bit of an overblown tributary dinner and a good
night's sleep, he wakes up to find the rest of his life waiting for him.
A journey of self discovery is about to take place for Schmidt.
At 66, it might seem a bit late...but better late than never.
his long time career over, he's kind of forced to take stock of his existence,
which he probably never defined outside of his position.
His marriage of 42 years has evolved into something reliable and
dispassionate. His daughter Jeannie
(Davis) is preparing for a wedding to a waterbed salesman with limited prospects
named Randall (Mulroney). He
doesn't seem to communicate well...in fact, his sole outlet becomes writing to
an African child he sponsors through one of those television charities.
The question is never asked if the child can read, write, or even
understand English, but the letters become something of a one-sided therapy
session for Schmidt.
may have been lined up for a simple existence of, as they say in sports, playing
out the string. But an unexpected
event causes Schmidt for the first time to really point his eyes inward.
He sets off in his new RV on what might have been the basic plot of a
simple road picture, but with a purpose greater than the events that occur along
the way. And the purpose is not
what he thinks it is on the surface, which is to stop his daughter from marrying
what he perceives to be a washout. No,
it's about learning to redefine himself in the years where the tide of his
life will be ebbing away.
of his encounters include a younger couple, also traveling by RV, which has a
strange and sobering conclusion, the site of his boyhood home which is now a
tire store, his old college, and eventually, Randall's home, where his twice
divorced mother Roberta (Bates) is...shall we say, a bit too much for him to
movie is the rare kind that manages to successfully walk the line between humor
and poignancy by not being afraid of either.
The comedy isn't the laugh-out-loud or fall-down kind, by any means,
but the kind that's real and based on the painful things that we sometimes
just have to smile about. But on
the other hand, it never shirks from the truth of the drama, which suggests that
there may be nothing quite as sad as coming to the end of your journey only to
find a complete stranger looking back at you from the mirror.
script, co-written by director Alexander Payne, is mostly right on.
The writing of letters to the African child is basically just a device
for voiceover inner monologues for Schmidt, but its contrivance comes to a nice
conclusion. But the real attraction
is the performances, featuring Oscar nominated work by both the always-wonderful
Kathy Bates and, of course, the inimitable Jack Nicholson in yet another career
defining performance. He delves
into the soul of this lost man with courage and integrity...he's not afraid of
loss of dignity or in forgoing anything that might have provided him with a
comfort level as an actor. Schmidt
is a completely different creation for him...you never look at Jack in this
movie and picture someone who would tell a waitress to hold the chicken salad
between her knees.
the end, we all face the same big abyss, and we all stare into it with the big
question: what does it all mean?
The beauty of About Schmidt is that it suggests that we may never
know what it means, but walk away feeling it means something.
Line never fails to deliver quality with their DVD issues, and About Schmidt supports
their reputation nicely. There are
a lot of subtle details in many of the images, especially in the set designs,
from Schmidt's office to the interior of the RV, to the groom's home.
Colors are rendered beautifully and with integrity, and images are sharp
and well defined throughout. The
only minor flaw was a bit of shimmer in one brief dark sequence...not
distracting; merely noticeable. High
Line's commitment to quality shows in the inclusion of a DTS soundtrack for
this movie, even though by nature it's not the kind of audio that will make
too many demands. The good news is
that both it and the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks are full, clear, and deliver
the all-important dialogue without a hitch.
A bit of extracurricular activity comes from a scene with a storm and
some of the business on the road. All
in all, a pleasant and supportive listen for the movie watching experience.
kind of come to regard deleted scenes as kind of a dubious features...some fans
like 'em a lot, but usually, there's a good reason why some things were left
on the cutting room floor. This
disc is generous with nine of them, but nothing that was sorely missed.
Rounding out are a trailer for this film and a pair of other Columbia Tri
an intelligent and honest drama-comedy that stares into the void and comes back
not with a tidy ending, but with a well-won ray of hope for us to nurture.
As has been said many times before, and no doubt will again, this one of
Jack Nicholson's shining moments, and a true must-see.