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About Schmidt (15)

Review by: Katherine Kaminsky | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Nine deleted scenes; Woodmen Tower sequences; Theatrical trailer.

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 Academy nomination.

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.

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