There are things about this movie that will make my older sister cry. Possibly quite a bit, actually. The least of which is the confirmation that Kathy Bates would play our mother in a movie version of our lives with uncanny accuracy. Her character in this movie has very nearly been written as though someone had known my mother and put her into their screenplay. It’s uncanny, really, some of the details they got right.
Anyway, in case you aren’t already aware, About Schmidt is possibly the most engaging and yet at the same time almost impossibly boring film you’ll see all year. Since I always seem to end up giving away the movie anyway, and since there is so very little to give away here, this is your warning that if for some reason you want to be suprised by a drama not to read on. About Schmidt tells the story of Warren Schmidt from the very minute he retires after 42 years from the Woodmen Insurance company. Before he figures out how to adjust to retirement, his wife dies suddenly. He is hopeless, and after a couple of weeks of making mess with no one to clean up after him, he decides all of a sudden to drive across the country in the Winnebago his wife made him buy. I might point out that it is an $125,000 Winnebago, The Adventurer. Anyway, he was going to drive from Omaha to Denver, where his daughter is preparing to be married, but when he calls her to tell her he is on his way, she tells him to turn around and not show up until a day or two before the wedding at the earliest. So he decides to just drive around. He visits the place he was born and the university and fraternity he was part of, but you can see that he doesn’t really know the significance of what he finds there yet. He communes with fellow travelers on the road, and with nature, and begins to come to terms with the death of his wife. He finally ends up in Denver and then has to deal with an entire family of in-laws he does not approve of his daughter marrying into. After so long with no involvement in his daughter’s life, there is really no way he can influence the situation at this late hour. Just as he was powerless to help the man who replaced him, powerless to save his wife’s life, powerless to influence his daughter, and powerless to come to grips with his own life, he finds in the end that he must at least accept these things.
There is beauty in this film. In the cinematography, sure. In the way it so accurately depicts the powerful details of reality, of life and of death as well. But also there is beauty in Schmidt himself. In watching Schmidt as he learns about Schmidt himself. This is possibly the best performance I have seen give jack Nicholson give, and it is masterful. Warren Schmidt is a fully realized human being and you can see his struggle, see his pain and sadness and you can see the undercurrent of anger that never really has the opportunity to surface properly, and you can see how you may end up at the end of your days as you see your humanity reflected in Schmidt.
I think that’s all I have to say about Schmidt.