About Schmidt is a 2002 American comedy-drama film directed by Alexander Payne, known most recently for directing Nebraska. The film stars Jack Nicholson as the main-character and is loosely based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Louis Begley.
The film received high marks from critics, was nominated for an Academy Award, and won two Golden Globes.
As the title suggests, the film is about Schmidt. More specifically, it follows him after retiring from work. This followed soon-after by the death of his wife. To make matters worse, he heads off on a road-trip to hand his daughter away to somebody that is an absolute nincompoop. Meanwhile, About Schmidt focuses on the character dealing with a sense of futility and wondering about his own self-worth that carries on for the whole film.
Jack Nicholson plays the role of a cynical and bitter gentleman that lost affection for his wife over the years, and seems basically absorbed by anything and everything to do with him.
Frankly, he's an asshole.
Thankfully, some of the most entertaining people achieve themselves through behaving this way, and Jack Nicholson brings a performance that makes it all very believable. He's narcissistic, but it's in such a tongue-in-cheek and gleeful way that it's almost mesmerizing. A large part of the film is this child from Tanzania, Schmidt sees a commercial on television talking about helping kids living in poverty and he decides to start donating money. The letters that he sends the child had me rolling around the floor laughing because of how stupidly brilliant they were.
The humor is funniest in-terms of audacity more than anything else as there is a lot of charm to Jack Nicholson's performance in this one.
If there is something that I would tell a first-time viewer of this movie is, don't expect a harrowing and depressing look on someone approaching the final act in his life.
This is what I went in expecting and it's really not how the movie feels. It's an over-the-top comedy with a very well-done character. Everybody else in this flick is silly, cheesy and a little stupid. Their comedy didn't really do too much for me. This movie really did belong to Jack Nicholson.
The character could have easily been depressing or empty, but with his performance, there does definitely seem to be something underneath it all. A thriving realization that times is almost up and he needs to make the most of it? Something like that, and it's definitely something that shows on the screen.
It may not have a consistent narrative, in that, it seems allover the place a times, but that doesn't keep it from exceeding much more often than it fails. It heads one direction and then the next and some of the scenes don't really serve much of a purpose. I would have happily cut-out the entire daughter-marriage sequence if it meant I would have been able to see this fella on the road for the film.
However, all it means is that you have the opportunity to see more of the lead in the role. The chance to see how he'll react in certain other-wise random situations and they usually have a lot of entertainment value.
In conclusion, I think this is a really entertaining movie. Like I said, it doesn't offer up one of the most amazing stories in the world, but it does offer one of the most amazing performances from a veteran actor. His character is so damn watchable that it outweighs everything else.
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Rating: Very Good