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Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Kathy Bates, Howard Hesseman

Directed by: Alexander Payne
Written by: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Produced by: Harry Gittes, Michael Besman
Distributor: New Line Cinema

US: 13/12/02 (LA/NY)
UK: 24/01/03

Jack Nicholson is Warren Schmidt... set adrift at the dreg end of his life. Now suddenly uncertain about his future as well as his past following retirement and the death of his wife. So he packs up his 30-foot Winnebago to set out on a journey across the Nebraska plains to attend his daughter's (Hope Davis) wedding to a waterbed salesman (Dermot Mulroney). But every step he takes seems wrong, and Warren seems destined to end his life as he lived it: a failure. But along the way, Warren recounts his journey and shares his observations with an unexpected friend - a poor Tanzanian boy he is sponsoring for 73 cents a day. In his long letters to the boy, Warren begins to see himself and the life he has lived with new eyes.
Feb/Writers Guild of America:Partners Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor discuss their collaboration on one of 2002's most celebrated road movies
19 Jan/New York Times: 'About Schmidt' Was Changed, but Not Its Core says novelist Louis Begley
15 Dec/Moviebus:LA crits pick 'About Schmidt' as best movie
9 Dec/New York Post: Jack says his sex drives waning, prefers sleep

Rolling Stone/People
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New York Post/New York Times
USA Today/Entertainment Weekly
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Kathy Bates and Jack Nicholson get out and about.

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After the wickedly funny Election, Payne returns with another deeply incisive--and much more introspective--look at Middle America. Warren Schmidt (Nicholson) is a resolutely normal guy who has given his whole life to working for an insurance company in Omaha. On the day of his retirement, his future yawns in front of him like a vast empty void; how can he get very excited about spending his remaining years rattling around a gigantic Winnebago with his doting wife (Squibb), while his daughter (Davis) is about to marry a goofball (Mulroney)? And before he even has a chance to get used to the idea, everything changes and he goes on an odyssey that forces him to confront his past and future ... and everyone around him.

The film has such a profoundly personal feel to it that it takes the breath away, pulling us into Warren's mind and slowly revealing themes and ideas without ever beating us over the head with them. This is fiercely clever filmmaking on every level--the writing and direction are subtle and revelatory. And the same can be said for Nicholson's performance; his usual larger-than-life persona is completely gone here! This is merely a shattered, struggling, 66-year-old man who hasn't quite given up yet. As he describes his life in letters to his sponsored African child Ndugu, we get the feeling that he's facing himself honestly for perhaps the first time ever. Far from being a typical movie voiceover, this actually adds nuance and insight to the film. Meanwhile, we get superb support from Davis (the daughter struggling with being both ignored and controlled by her dad), Mulroney (the nincompoop with a heart of gold) and of course Bates (as his frighteningly frank earth mother). There's a lot going on here--from the up-close examination of this one man on the verge of oblivion to a razor-sharp satire of the over-familiarity of American culture. And there are also universal themes about how we spend our lives, where we set our priorities and who we give importance to. These are the ideas that haunt us long after the prickly comedy has faded.


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