With no job, no wife, and no family, Warren is desperate to find something meaningful in his thoroughly unimpressive life. He sets out on a journey of self-discovery.
Review by Darrel Manson


This page was created on January 7, 2002
This page was last updated on May 21, 2005

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Click to enlargeDirected by Alexander Payne
Novel by
Louis Begley
Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor

Jack Nicholson .... Warren Schmidt
Kathy Bates .... Roberta Hertzel
Hope Davis .... Jeannie Schmidt
Dermot Mulroney .... Randall Hertzel
June Squibb .... Helen Schmidt
Howard Hesseman .... Larry Hertzel
Len Cariou .... Ray Nichols
Harry Groener .... John
Connie Ray .... Vicki Rusk
Mark Venhuizen .... Duncan Hertzel
Cheryl Hamada .... Saundra
Phil Reeves .... Minister in Denver
Matt Winston .... Gary Nordin, Warren's Replacement
James M. Connor .... Randall's Best Man (as James Michael Connor)
Jill Anderson .... Bridesmaid Reading St. Paul
Judith Hart .... Woman Mourning Helen
Marilyn Tipp .... Neighbor Lady
Robert Kem .... Priest in Omaha (as Reverend Robert Kem)
Tung Ha .... Frat Kid
James Crawley .... Other Frat Kid
Steve Heller .... Tire Store Employee
Tom Belford .... Funeral Director

Produced by
Bill Badalato .... executive producer
Michael Besman .... producer
Harry Gittes .... producer
Rachael Horovitz .... executive producer

Original Music by Rolfe Kent
Cinematography by James Glennon
Film Editing by Kevin Tent
Casting by Lisa Beach, John Jackson, and Sarah Katzman
Production Design by Jane Ann Stewart
Art Direction by T.K. Kirkpatrick and Pat Tagliaferro
Set Decoration by Teresa Visinare
Costume Design by Wendy Chuck

MPAA: Rated R for some language and brief nudity.
Runtime: 125 min / France:124 min (Cannes Film Festival)

For rating reasons, go to FILMRATINGS.COM, and MPAA.ORG.
Parents, please refer to PARENTALGUIDE.ORG

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About Schmidt (Score)
Rolfe Kent

CD Info

1. The adventurer
2. Telling Ndugu about the family
3. About Schmidt
4. Schmidt went to Denver
5. Randall's room
6. Guiltily escaping the rusks
7. Helen goes; Schmidt stays
8. Of life after Helen
9. The fury of Schmidt
10. Shopping with Schmidt
11. Missing Helen
12. Riverside prayer
13. Dinner with Randall's relatives
14. Schmidt revisited his alma mater
15. Schmidt at the wedding
16. Omaha return
17. Ndugu's painting
18. What I really want to say
19. The end credits of About Schmidt
20. Constantine & Warren
21. Afrikaan beat - Bert Kaemphert
22. Ndugu letter

23. Interview with Alexander and Rolfe (Interview)
No available poster as of January 07, 2003
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Book info
About Schmidt (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
by Louis Begley

Albert Schmidt is a retired lawyer who misses his recently deceased wife, has an unhealthy diet, is a mild anti-Semite and owns a nice home in the Hamptons he feels compelled to offer to his daughter as a wedding present. Said daughter, Charlotte, is a yuppie in all the worst ways. She handles public relations for tobacco companies, doesn't want the house in the Hamptons, and is about to marry a buttoned-up Jewish lawyer. The conflict takes off from there in this finely told tale of retirement, inheritance, and death.


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Click to enlargeWarren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) has arrived at several of life's crossroads all at the same time. To begin with, he is retiring from a lifetime of service as an actuary for Woodmen of the World Insurance Company, and he feels utterly adrift. Furthermore, his only daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) is about to marry a boob. And his wife Helen (June Squibb) dies suddenly after 42 years of marriage.

With no job, no wife, and no family, Warren is desperate to find something meaningful in his thoroughly unimpressive life. He sets out on a journey of self-discovery, exploring his roots across Nebraska in the 35-foot motor home in which he had planned to drive around the country with his late wife. His ultimate destination is Denver, where he hopes to bridge the gulf between himself and his somewhat estranged daughter by arriving early to help with her wedding preparations. Unfortunately, he hates the groom-to-be Randall (Dermot Mulroney), a profoundly mediocre, mediocre, underachieving waterbed salesman. To make matters worse, Warren is appalled by the free-spirited nature and boorish behavior of his soon-to-be in-laws (Kathy Bates and Howard Hesseman). Warren grows swiftly convinced that his new purpose in life is to stop his daughter's marriage.

Click to enlargeDuring this darkly comic and painful odyssey, Warren details his adventures and shares his observations with an unexpected new friend and confessor -- Ndugu Umbo, a six-year-old Tanzanian orphan whom he sponsors for $22 a month through an organization that advertises on TV. From these long letters filled with a lifetime of things unsaid, Warren begins -- perhaps for the first time -- to glimpse himself and the life he has lived.

Directed by Alexander Payne from a screenplay by Payne and Jim Taylor, the team behind the Oscar-nominated Election, About Schmidt is a wryly observed slice of American life. Produced by Harry Gittes (Breaking In, Little Nikita, Goin South) and Michael Besman (Bounce, The Opposite of Sex), the film is executive produced by Bill Badalato (Men of Honor, Unstrung Heroes).

About Schmidt (rated R) will be released in New York, Los Angeles and Omaha on December 13th, 2002 and will expand on December 20th, 2002 and January 3rd, 2003. -- © New Line Cinema
Pastor, Artesia Christian Church, Artesia, CA
Darrel has an incredible love and interest in the cinematic arts. His reviews usually include independent and significantly important film.

Click to enlargeWarren Schmidt (masterly portrayed by Jack Nicholson) is at one of those points in life in which one can look back and assess what we have done with the life we have had. I think he was surprised when he looked back and saw how empty it had been.

There is great humor in About Schmidt -- especially for someone, like me, who at least can see retirement on the far horizon. From an entertainment point of view, the humor in itself is worth seeing the film. But under the humor there are serious issues the film is dealing with.

Click to enlargeAbout Schmidt opens with him sitting in his empty office watching the clock click the last few seconds to five o'clock on his last day before he retires. There are boxes piled up of the work he has done, but he's soon to discover that in reality, the sum of his life amounts to very little.

Click to enlargeA ROAD FILM
A good part of the film is a road movie in which he searches for some meaning of what his life has been. Is there enough to his life for him to be able to reconnect? Before long, he discovers that he has lost everything that has defined his life: his job, his wife (and even his faith in his wife), his home (in a way), even his birthplace.

Click to enlargeUNWORTHY PEOPLE?
Another part of the film deals with Schmidt dealing with his daughter's impending wedding. When he arrives in Denver a few days before the wedding, he discovers a family of in-laws that he feels is woefully unworthy of his own family. He tries to convince his daughter not to take this road with her life. In fact, he is really rejecting his own life.

About Schmidt
forces us to see the world through Schmidt's eyes. Everyone he meets seems to be exaggerated, especially in their faults. Could his future son-in-law's family really be that oddball? Could the family he meets in the RV park really be that happy? Yet, as easily as he sees the faults in everyone else, he fails to see the failures of his own life. He is desperate to be connected with someone, but whenever he gets a chance, he refuses to connect. He is a lonely man who keeps getting lonelier.

Throughout the film, Schmidt writes very personal letters to Ndugu, a six year old orphan he sponsors in Africa through a child rescue organization. He reveals things to Ndugu that would be uncomfortable for an adult to listen to. Ndugu becomes his confessor and confidant. In a sense, his letters to Ndugu are like a prayer to some distant, impersonal God. He wants to be heard and understood, although the things he writes are obviously beyond the child's understanding. When the answer finally comes from Ndugu, it just emphasizes the emptiness to Schmidt's life.

Click to enlargeDESPAIR
About Schmidt
is a film that focuses on despair. As Schmidt seeks some identity and meaning for his life, he falls deeper and deeper into despair. The end of the movie is somewhat open-ended. It could be interpreted as having some hope, but for me it was even more despair. By the end of the movie there is nothing left to give any joy to his life. He has searched for meaning and comes up, as his office was at the beginning, empty.

It seems this is the season for movies about despair. The Hours and Far From Heaven also deal with a great amount of despair. About Schmidt is a comic look at despair (as incongruous as that may sound). All of these may offer some small sliver of hope in the end, but each (including About Schmidt) sends the viewer out of the theater with the taste of despair still in his or her mouth.

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About Schmidt © 2002 New Line Cinema. All Rights Reserved.

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