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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

About Schmidt (2002)



Reviews and Comments

A bit beyond the 30 minute mark of About Schmidt, I realized I cared as much for Warren Schmidt as I ever have for any movie character. He is played by Jack Nicholson in a performance of amazing sincerity and restraint. As the film opens, he is counting down the seconds to the end of the last work day before he retires. He has, we infer soon enough, defined his life in terms of his career and now, lacking that, is faced with a big adjustment. He'll soon wind up contending with three, all at once.

While there are moments of humor, the overriding emotional pull is pathos. This is a man who lacks the creativity to adapt to his changing life, and it slowly wrings him out. Yet, somehow, the film is buoyant enough to convey a great sadness without becoming overwhelming or depressing. About Schmidt had me. I was completely at its disposal, and it did right by me.

It's tough to do comedy-drama right. Most such films settle for alternating between the two instead of finding a common tone. Not so in About Schmidt, where humor often goes hand in hand with the most dramatically significant moments.

It's not quite perfect. In the third act, a character played by Kathy Bates shows up. She's fantastic, but the character is maybe too strong, distracting the course of the film from Schmidt. Things do get back on track, however. The closing scene achieves a kind of bittersweetness so rarely experienced and so very precious.