In Alexander Payne's ABOUT SCHMIDT, Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) is retiring from a long, dedicated tenure at Woodmen of the World Insurance Company. Though he is proud of this achievement, he finds some difficulty adjusting to life without work. To make matters worse, his loving wife Helen (June Squibb) passes away, leaving him all alone. He turns to his daughter, Jeannie (Hope Davis), for support, but she is busy planning her marriage to Randall (Dermot Mulroney), who Warren just can't stand. He decides to sponsor a Tanzanian child, Ndugu, through a program advertised on television, and sends elaborate letters to the 6-year-old boy along with his $22 monthly checks. Meanwhile, he sets off on a soul-searching voyage across the west in his new RV.Nicholson's deadpan voice-over narration, especially in his letters to Ndugu, give ABOUT SCHMIDT a solid balance between comedy and drama. The crux of the film is the daughter's wedding in Denver, where Warren is the guest of Randall's outrageous, new-agey mom (Kathy Bates). Though the funny moments make light of Warren's state in life, the overall feel of the film is a bit sad, and its enigmatic ending will keep viewers guessing what will happen to this uniquely knowable character.
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"...This may be Nicholson's boldest performance. It's certainly one of his best..."
Rolling Stone - Peter Travers (10/19/2002)
"...The power of this great movie -- part comedy, part tragedy, part satire, mostly masterpiece -- is in the details..."
Entertainment Weekly - Lisa Schwarzbaum (12/13/2002)
"...Instead of flash, what Mr. Nicholson brings to his role is a sorrowful awareness of human complexity whose emotional depth matches anything he has done in the movies before..."
New York Times - Stephen Holden (12/13/2002)
"...The film is a gutsy, truthful, deeply rooted vision of contemporary American life, scaled to the size of an ordinary man....Payne has become the most gifted comic social satirist to hit our movies since Preston Sturges..."
Los Angeles Times - Manohla Dargis (12/13/2002)
"...Payne elicits one of Nicholson's finest autumn-years performances in this excellent black comedy..."
Total Film - Matthew Leyland (08/01/2003)
"...Nicholson's restraint is superbly on the mark..."
USA Today - Mike Clark (12/13/2002)
"...Nicholson's acting is at once edgy and restrained, holding his natural exuberance on a tight leash, festering with dormant energies..."
Sight and Sound - Xan Brooks (01/01/2003)
"This is a film of ostensibly modest but utterly effective directorial touches."
Uncut - Kevin Maher (02/01/2003)