Directed by Alexander Payne ("Election").
Written by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor. Based on the
novel by Louis Begley.
Starring Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates
Release Year: 2002
Review Date: 1/5/03
While I was visiting New York City last
week, I had to catch a flick. Some of my friends had already seen
“The 25th Hour”, so I tried to
rein in some folks with the new drama “About Schmidt.” My friend
Alexandra—a Bellview rookie!—took the bait so we hung out for a
showing at the Union Square theater.
Save for the fact that I had to pay NYC
matinee prices--$10, bastards!--“About Schmidt” was all good in the
hood. Jack Nicholson gives it all he’s got as newly-retired
insurance man Warren Schmidt, who leaves a company at the start of
the film and realizes that he knows nearly nothing about his wife of
40 years, Helen (June Squibb). He’s also got a daughter (Hope
Davis) on the verge of marrying a knuckleheaded waterbed salesman
(the always-reliable Dermot Mulroney) and he worries for her
future. With nothing to do all day, he stumbles upon one of those
“Save the Children”-style organizations where he puts up $22 a day
to sponsor a child in Tanzania named Ndugu...and, Schmidt spends
much of the film writing letters about his inner thoughts to his new
“About Schmidt” is a rambling road drama
that is almost a coming-of-age story as Schmidt discovers all that
he has become—and missed—in 66 years of hanging out with the
living. His ongoing sense of regret for what he has missed leads
him to try and grasp what little he has got left, and Nicholson
plays the more reserved Schmidt with incredible depth, without
resorting to some of the wild outbursts that have characterized many
of his previous roles. So, in the film’s second-funniest scene,
Schmidt tries to get situated on a waterbed, and as he flounders
there, trying to get his whole body on the bed, you are laughing at
how ridiculous it all looks, but never does Schmidt fly off the
handle or get upset...he just tries to work through the ordeal.
Besides Nicholson, the film’s strength lies
in director Alexander Payne’s pacing, the hilarious-yet-poignant
letters to Ndugu, and the performance in the film’s last half-hour
by Kathy Bates, who is as close to guaranteed of a Best Supporting
Actress Oscar nomination as anyone else this year. She gives “About
Schmidt” that extra punch to finish out the film and provides a film
moment that literally had me grabbing Alexandra’s leg in mock fear
when it happened. Love that!
Payne, who previously directed
“Election”—and summarily made Reese Witherspoon a star—does more
incredible work in a Midwestern setting and I’m excited to see what
he does next. I really couldn’t think of anything about this flick
that wasn’t strong, from the well-crafted supporting characters to
the perfect mix of laughs and drama to the cinematography to the
solid ending, “About Schmidt” should appeal in the good to everyone.
Rating: Opening Weekend
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard