May 02, 2004

About Schmidt

Kathy Bates naked. I really didn't need that. Jack Nicholson's butt wasn't on my list of desired movie visuals either. At least they were both brief.

About Schmidt is slow and ponderous, and could be depressing if you let it. There are some sardonically humorous moments, but overall you get the despair of the bland American midwestern landscape. Flat Nebraska farmland and Omaha residential neighborhoods. Jack does a nice job of acting out a wasted and empty life.

Warren R. Schmidt is 66 years old and has just retired. His daughter who has moved to Denver is getting married to a waterbed salesman and Schmidt wants to stop it. He loves his daughter and doesn't want her life to turn out like his.

A scene that stuck with me was when Schmidt went back to the office after his retirement to see the young guy that the company hired to replace him. He wants to see if he's got any questions or having any problems. Each and every statement the new guy makes in response to Warren is a cliché.

"What do say partner?"
[How are you?] "Not too shabby."
"What brings you by this neck of the woods?"
"Keepin' busy, keepin' busy"
"I think I've got a pretty good handle on things"
"Smooth sailing all the way."

The new man could not give less of a shit about Warren, and his fake respect and admiration for Warren is unnerving -- for Warren and the viewer. I always feel sorry for older retired men, who for some reason continue to wear neckties every day. Warren does this. There is something tragic about that practice.

The movie picks up in the second half when he goes to Denver for his daughter's wedding. The prospective in-laws are mostly whack jobs. Bates is the groom's mother and tells Warren that she breast-fed him until he was 5 years old, creating the perfect momma's boy. The groom has his mullett all washed and un-ponytailed for the wedding, which drags out in schmaltzy new age glory.

The movie is loaded with voice-overs by Schmidt, which take the form of letters he writes to his newly adopted Tanzanian orphan. Undugu is one of those "Save the Children" $22/mo. adoptees. The voice overs allow us to experience Warren's inner angst which we wouldn't get otherwise.

This is definitely the Jack Nicholson Show. Any fan of his should see it. Just don't expect an uplifting experience.

Posted by Wayne at May 2, 2004 01:53 AM
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