ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  alexander payne

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  comedy

LENGTH  -  124 minutes

RELEASED  -  13 december 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  new line cinema

OFFICIAL SITE  -  about schmidt

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $30,000,000
about schmidt - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from about schmidt at

buy the dvd from about schmidt at

warren schmidt is a man in his 60's. while trying to run his daughter's life, he realizes that he wasted his.

had a budget of $30,000,000 dollars.


picture from about schmidt

picture from about schmidt

picture from about schmidt


four out of four possible stars

In real life, Jack Nicholson is a sixty-five year old man. And in About Schmidt, he plays a sixty-five year old man. Who has a sixty-five year old wife! Imagine one of Hollywood's self proclaimed playboys actually acting his age. But that's not what is so amazing about this picture. If anything, it's the way Nicholson is able to make such an emotional impact on the audience in such a simple and understated story. While Nicholson has been recognized for his performances time and time again by Hollywood and various organizations who give out acting awards, his role as Warren Schmidt is one of his most vibrant in years.

That might seem like the wrong word to describe a performance in what appears to be a very understated film, but it just goes to show how much Nicholson can do with a role. Half of his success in his past films has come from his nearly patented vocal delivery and he doesn't disappoint in this film through various voice-overs and narration. The cadence of his speech is one of the most interesting things about his acting style and as Warren Schmidt, Nicholson delivers the satire-infused dialogue with a lot of wit.

In truth, the only real failing of the film is in its middle section where the more impatient type in the audience might start to wonder "what's going to happen next and when is it going to happen." And though it's easy to suggest that the editor could have chopped a minute here and there during the second act, the overall pace of the film might have been affected adversely. After all the first three or so minutes of the film are a series of static panoramic shots of the building where Nicholson's character has worked for forty years.

The strange stillness of these first few minutes sets the tone for the entire film. Shots created with a moving camera (like the usual sweeps, pans, and tilts that cinematographers tend to favor in their opening sequences) are all but absent from the beginning minutes of the movie. Strange yes, but a change from the ordinary. And that is an idea that can easily be extended to all the aspects of this film. The acting, script, and cinematography, and not to mention the musical score don't resemble in the least a "standard" Hollywood film.

And since the budget of this film was rather larger than what an independently funded production might have had access to, it's impossible to consider this a true independent film in the spirit of finances. Though the nearly avant-garde presentation of the film suggests that New Line (who picked the film up from turnaround from Columbia) saw that a non-mainstream picture was going to be created out of this story. But the whole idea of avant-garde and independent filmmaking might scare off potential viewers who won't get to see just how funny and accessible this picture really is.

Though not nearly as mainstream as his last large hit, As Good As It Gets, this film is still a comedy at heart and it makes a valiant effort to temper the dramatic scenes with funny ones. And the funny moments easily give the serious ones more of an impact. For example, Dermot Mulroney, playing the man engaged to marry Warren Schmidt's shaky daughter, is really a pathetic character. His pyramid schemes and job as a waterbed salesman just invite pity. But even though his situation is rather depressing, it's still quite hilarious.

And the same could be said for every character in the film. Though Hope Davis, playing Warren's daughter, gets a little annoying at times, everyone else in the picture benefits greatly from a well-written script and some insightful direction from Alexander Payne, a director who seems to have made a career out of constructing very off-kilter movies. As the man at the helm of the very weird film, Election, it seems inevitable that this project should be on the strange side as well.

Of course one of the strangest things about the film is probably Kathy Bates's character, "Roberta," the woman soon to be Warren Schmidt's in-law once her son and his daughter get married. Bates would definitely get the award for being the most off-the-wall character in the film if such an award was available. Though each character has his or her own weirdness to contend with, Roberta is nearly as complex as Warren, in that the audience will have a hard time hating her, but they won't exactly like her either.

But though the characters in this film slide back and forth from likeability to annoyance some times, the whole experience of this film is so unexpected that one cannot help but enjoy it. The script has a lot of intelligence in it and the actors bring the dialogue to life with a lot of intelligence of their own. As a character study, About Schmidt shows the audience a film with very few flaws (only in length and editing) and enough comedy to keep a large portion of the audience rolling around the aisles for a significant portion of the film.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs new line cinema 2002
home | archive | ratings | links | photographs | about | contact