About Schmidt
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     About Schmidt had the best pre-release buzz of any movie that I can remember, and the buzz has continued since it opened.  Its star, Jack Nicholson, just won a Golden Globe for his role in the film.  Therefore, it was with huge expectations that I entered the theatre to see About Schmidt.  I have to say that it almost, but not quite, lived up to them.  Even more than The Quiet American which showcased Michael Caine's great acting skills, About Schmidt could have been called About Jack.  This film tells the story of Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson), an insurance actuary, who in the opening scene of the movie is one minute from retirement.  He has been working for the same company for 32 years and married to the same woman (June Squibb) for 42 years. His daughter (Hope Davis) is engaged to be married to a pool salesman (Dermot Mulroney) with eccentric parents (Kathy Bates & Howard Hesseman).  I don't want to give anything away since so little happens in this movie but after his retirement, at age 66, Schmidt has a mid-life crisis.  He begins searching for the meaning of his life. Rather than go into therapy, Schmidt works things out through writing letters to Ndugu, a child in Africa that he has sponsored.

     Even though they are not in the film that much, the supporting cast is a joy to watch.  They are led by Hope Davis, mostly known for stage and Indie work.  I love her dearly because of one film, Mumford.  (A great film that nobody saw. Total box office was $4.5 million. Rent it.)  Unfortunately, Davis is offscreen through most of About Schmidt.  The small parts of Davis' future in-laws are played brilliantly by Kathy Bates and Howard Hesseman.  I have never liked Bates but she won me over with this role.  She is really great and shows a lot of courage, baring it all in one scene.  Plus,  she has the best scenes with Nicholson.  It was very nice to see Hesseman, who still has a warm spot in my heart from when he played Doctor Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati.  Another familiar face is that of Len Cariou, best known for winning a Tony as Sweeny Todd, who plays Schmidt's best friend.  Finally, there is Dermot Mulroney, the fiance.  I always get him mixed up with Dylan McDermott (The Practice). But Dermot, not Dylan, does a tremendous job in About Schmidt, making a one-dimensional joke of a character with a bad haircut into a real person.

     This is a very good movie but the trailers are a bit misleading.  I thought that there would be a story, and that the story would be mostly about Schmidt's relationship to his daughter and getting ready for the wedding, but no.  The trailer lies.  Most of About Schmidt is just about Schmidt.  What makes all this work is that in the role of Schmidt, appearing in every scene of the movie, is Jack Nicholson.  Whatever you may think of Jack, I love him, this movie will remind you that, above and beyond everything else, he is a great actor.  And he can show it here because he is playing way against type with Warren Schmidt.  Jack is back as if he has ever been away.  He is a joy to watch and once you relax and realize that nothing is going to happen, About Schmidt is fun to watch and, yes, heartwarming.  Nicholson made a stab at being heartwarming in As Good As It Gets but he really does it here.