About Schmidt

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Review byMatthew Turner24/01/2003

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 124 mins

Alexander Payne’s follow-up to Election has an undeniably impressive performance from Nicholson and intermittent flashes of brilliance, but is painfully slow and, unfortunately, rather boring to boot.

After the gleefully sharp satirical comedy of Election, (his second movie but the one that got him noticed), Alexander Payne’s follow-up film was eagerly anticipated by both critics and audiences. However, while About Schmidt shares Election’s jet-black sense of humour, it lacks the same sense of pace, so that it feels like a 90-minute comedy needlessly stretched to over two hours and suffers accordingly.

Mail Order Tanzanian Kids and Wedding Sabotage

Jack Nicholson plays Warren Schmidt, a man who has reached retirement age with little or nothing to show for it, except a paunch and a none-too-fetching comb-over. When his homely, dull wife dies (it’s odd seeing Nicholson married to someone his own age!), he is seized with a desire to do something with his life.

However, what he actually does is adopt a Tanzanian child via post and then jumps in his Winnebago and heads off to sabotage his estranged daughter’s impending marriage to nice-but-dim waterbed salesman Dermot Mulroney.

The device of the adopted child gives the film its first great comic moment and sets the tone of the film as Nicholson begins a letter (“Dear Ndugu…”) and unleashes a stream of invective about how tired he is of his life and how much contempt he has for the world. Unfortunately, though there are flashes of the same intensity later on (an encounter in a trailer park; a confrontation with an old friend) they are few and far between, with the rest of the film often painfully slow.

Nicholson Acts His Age?

Nicholson, however, is excellent, completely abandoning all his usual tics (the devilish grin, the arched eye-brow) and delivering an impressive performance where for once, he shows he can act his age.

You’re constantly aware (again, thanks to the letters) that his anger could erupt at any moment and this keeps the character interesting, despite the fact that his life is, essentially, a boring one. At any rate, Nicholson has already received a Golden Globe for his efforts (his quip about feeling guilty for receiving the Comedy award because they were going for Drama is revealing) and is certain to be Oscar nominated come February.

There’s great support too, from the under-rated Hope Davis as Warren’s daughter and Mulroney as her be-mulletted husband-to-be. However, they both have the film stolen neatly from beneath their noses by Kathy Bates, whose lusty performance (beware that Hot Tub scene!) as Mulroney’s mother livens up the film considerably.

In short, About Schmidt is one of those films that you find yourself wanting to like much more than you actually do. It’s definitely worth watching for Nicholson’s performance and the occasional moment of brilliance, but overall it struggles to retain your interest.

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About Schmidt
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Content updated: 19/12/2018 01:40

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