Thursday, May 14, 2009

About Schmidt. A-

You may remember Jack Nicholson and his angry, rebellious character Robert Dupea in 'Five Easy Pieces.' That film was released in 1970. Just over 30 years later, Nicholson came out with another film, 'About Schmidt,' in which he plays Warren Schmidt, a recently retired 66 year old man who loses his wife just when his daughter is about to get married. Now I see 'About Schmidt' as a continuation of the character Dupea, as he still has some of the same rebellious nature, but is slowly beginning to accept things in life (on the DVD there's a scene in a restaurant just like the one in 'Five Easy Pieces,' only this time Nicholson accepts what is given). The film is about Schmidt and his personal quest to find what his life is all about. As a youth he saw himself as eventually being someone famous, but now that he's 66, he sees that his life has slipped by and he feels he's made not a single difference to anyone in the world. A clever subplot, which turns out to be much more by the end, has Schmidt sending money and writing deeply personal letters to a destitute child in Tanzania. After the death of his wife, Schmidt suddenly feels lost in the world. He wants to help out his daughter with the wedding, even though he doesn't really care for her super-friendly, though slightly dim fiance, Randall (Dermot Mulroney). His daughter tells him to go home instead. So Schmidt decides to go on a road trip in his RV during the time leading up to the wedding. This is a character study of a man trying to find the meaning of life. It's pretty basic, but luckily director Alexander Payne keeps the film from getting overly dramatic. What really makes the movie work is Nicholson's incredible performance. He's outstanding as Schmidt, and he never lets his character get out of control. This is a funny (I love the scene when he's addressing everyone at the wedding reception) delightful and heartwarming movie. The adjectives may sound familiar, but thanks to the smart script and Nicholson's performance, 'About Schmidt' goes into unchartered waters.

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