Review by: Katherine Kaminsky | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Nine deleted scenes; Woodmen Tower sequences;
THE great thing about Schmidt is Jack Nicholson. He's one of
those actors you recognise instantly and yet don't doubt for a
second he's not the character he's playing.
Here, he delivers a moving performance as a lonely, disappointed
man coming to terms with his life, which could well earn him another
As Bette Davis once said 'Old age is no place for sissies'. Based
on the novel by Louis Begley, this is a darkly comic look at life
for the over 65s.
Warren Schmidt (Nicholson) is retiring from his lifelong service
to Woodmen World Insurance Company. Instead of enjoying his new
found freedom, he is forced to evaluate his role in life and just
what, after all those years, has he achieved?
He feels superfluous and disappointed as he faces what's left
of his existence, when his conscience is prompted by a TV commercial.
Do something useful and adopt an orphan.
For $22 a month, he writes letters to six-year-old Tanzanian,
Ndugu Umbo. The narrated letters reveal Warren's hidden thoughts
about his life and experiences to the young boy a world away.
When his wife, Helen (June Squibb), dies unexpectedly, he becomes
more alienated and embarks on a nostalgic road trip. Plans to
rebuild his relationship with his only daughter, Jeannie (Hope
Davis), are confounded, as she is about to marry the unimpressive
- and in Warren's eyes - unsuitable Randall (Dermot Mulroney).
The great thing about Warren Schmidt is his wonderful sense of
the ridiculous, which Nicholson plays perfectly. Whenever he is
at his most vulnerable, a delightful irony is delivered, making
this a far more enjoyable picture than it sounds.
Unfortunately, the film lacks pace. Just when you start to laugh,
and there are some very funny moments, it dips and drags. Director,
Alexander Payne, doesn't have the control to move the film along
smoothly; he dwells on the predictable and the result is that
it never fully takes off.
This is a great shame as the supporting cast, like Nicholson,
are also excellent.
Mulroney, best known for My Best Friend's Wedding, is convincing
as the underachieving fiance, and Kathy Bates is glorious as his
far too revealing, hippy mum. Hope Davis plays a detached Jeannie,
while June Squibb, apparently better known on the Broadway stage,
is Schmidt's wife, Helen.
Although thought-provoking and well written, with a deeply moving
ending, the film generally is diluted with too much sentiment.
However, if you like Jack, as usual you won't be disappointed.