IN THE ACTOR’S SPOTLIGHT WITH JACK NICHOLSON REVIEW: “About Schmidt” stars Jack Nicholson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining ), Hope Davis (Captain America: Civil War, American Splendor), Kathy Bates (Misery, Dolores Claiborne), Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding, Young Guns), June Squibb (Nebraska, In & Out), Howard Hesseman (WKRP in Cincinnati [TV series], Head of the Class [TV series]), Harry Groener (A Cure for Wellness, Patch Adams), Connie Ray (The Time Machine , Idle Hands), and Len Cariou (Spotlight, Thirteen Days). It is directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants), who also wrote the screenplay with Jim Taylor (Election, Jurassic Park III). Based on a novel, this film follows Warren Schmidt (Nicholson), a newly retired insurance worker who, facing a life tragedy, decides to be bold and go on a road trip to stop his daughter from marrying a man he doesn’t like.
As we wind down in this Actor’s Spotlight marathon, we arrive at a film from the latter part of Nicholson’s career: “About Schmidt.” It’s the flick no one saw coming, nor dared to imagine the actor in when it first came out, and boy is it different from what Nicholson has done in the past. Here, he plays an old loser, living a miserable life and trying to own up to his opinions on serious matters, primarily his daughter’s coming marriage. I didn’t know what to think about this feature. I knew I was getting into something unique, but I never would’ve believed it would be so far off the spectrum. “About Schmidt” is one of the small Indie flicks you’d see B-rate actors take part in (at the most). At least around that time; Indie is in style now, so we’re getting some great tour de force performers in those suckers (as if they had better options in the bigger pictures nowadays). I would’ve never seen Nicholson portray this character. His wife looks older than him (I assume she’s actually around his age), he doesn’t have swagger, and he’s often a coward. If anything could be said, this is Nicholson’s best performance within this marathon. Obviously, it takes a lot to get used to, but Nicholson owns his role, and plays it with stride. Slowly, you believe the loserdom of this man, and what can make you snicker at times with his various predicaments can shortly make you depressed at how sucky his life is. Heck, it’s a story that progressively gets sad, trading laughs for tears by the time the finale arrives. “About Schmidt” is a saddening look on life in later years, and how someone with many hopes in his life has come to a crushing low. It’s as if the mentality of this character reflects the state of Nicholson at that time. Though he was still “the money,” his youth is gone, as are the glory days. From an artistic standpoint, this is a great film. The concept is fresh, offering scenes that balance humor and drama, and doesn’t hold any punches. The performances are phenomenal, as is the dialogue, making for an easy-going-yet-hearty experience that leaves you engaged for the full two hours. I was invested in this character and where he would go, because it’s all uncharted territory. The only objective is for him to make this opinion clear to his daughter; outside of that, anything goes, playing into the theme of a loser guy finding himself and asking the important questions on life. Nicholson is fantastic, and proves he still has it. The fact that this role is different from anything he’s done makes it even better, and offers a new experience in and of itself. Of course, you’d certainly have to be in a mood to watch this movie. It’s not a brisk walk in the park to casually view. “About Schmidt” seeks to tear your heart out, but not without a few laughs and memorable moments. I loved the plot device of Schmidt’s letters to his foster kid. It tied the movie together nicely, and made for nice narration (something that’s hard to not make too expository). There’s a lot to dissect and admire in this feature. It’s a moving experience, with not a lot of flaws. Really, it falls to small things. I could’ve done without the Kathy Bates nudity (it’s hilarious, but why Alexander Payne?). Some scenes also seem to flow like the wind, never really seeming cohesive with the storyline, but more so in the moment. These come in random revelations by Schmidt that we have to see unfold to understand. It’s not too much of a problem, but it can be to those who want a straightforward narrative. In the end, “About Schmidt” is a great small film, very much over-looked in Nicholson’s portfolio. The theme speaks volumes, the performances are fantastic, and it’ll wreck you in the final act. It’s an art film, through and through. FINAL SCORE: 92%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: