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About Schmidt

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) has arrived at several of life's crossroads all at the same time. To begin with, he is retiring from a lifetime of service as an actuary for Woodmen of the World Insurance Company, and he feels utterly adrift. Furthermore, his only daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) is about to marry a boob. And his wife Helen (June Squibb) dies suddenly after 42 years of marriage.

With no job, no wife, and no family, Warren is desperate to find something meaningful in his thoroughly unimpressive life. He sets out on journey of self-discovery, exploring his roots across Nebraska in the 10-metre motor home in which he had planned to drive around the country with his late wife. His ultimate destination is Denver, where he hopes to bridge the gulf between himself and his somewhat estranged daughter by arriving early to help with her wedding preparations. Unfortunately, he hates the groom-to-be Randall (Dermot Mulroney), a profoundly mediocre, underachieving waterbed salesman. To make matters worse, Warren is appalled by the free-spirited nature and boorish behaviour of his soon-to-be in-laws (Kathy Bates and Howard Hesseman). Warren grows swiftly convinced that his new purpose in life is to stop his daughter's marriage.

During this darkly comic and painful odyssey, Warren details his adventures and shares his observations with an unexpected new friend and confessor - Ndugu Umbo, a 6-year-old Tanzanian orphan whom he sponsors for $22 a month through an organisation that advertises on TV. From these long letters filled with a lifetime of things unsaid, Warren begins - perhaps for the first time - to glimpse himself and the life he has lived.

Theatrical propaganda posters

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Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film drama retirement motor home

Persons of interest

  • Jack Nicholson .... Warren Schmidt
  • Hope Davis... Jeannie
  • Dermot Mulroney .... Randall Hertzel
  • June Squibb .... Helen Schmidt
  • Kathy Bates .... Roberta Hertzel
  • Howard Hesseman .... Larry
  • Louis Begley .... Author
  • Alexander Payne .... Screenwriter
  • Jim Taylor .... Screenwriter
  • Alexander Payne .... Screenwriter
  • Alexander Payne .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Live fast, die young. If I ever get as old and useless as Warren Schmidt then please, someone, find me and shoot me.

If you are in any way susceptible to depression then don't watch About Schmidt: you'll be slashing your wrists in the first half hour. Even the happy ending won't save your bacon: as far happy endings go it's a sad commentary on someone whose only value in life is to sponsor a third world orphan.

Don't get me wrong, About Schmidt is a well made film with plenty of humour to go along with the tragedy - if you can't laugh either with or at Warren you're in bigger trouble than you realise - it's just that the film is suffused with Warren's growing realisation that his whole life was a waste of time. His marriage was a sham, his job was unfulfilling, his only child doesn't like him, her fiancé is white trash and his wife dies. That's enough to spoil anyone's day.

Jack Nicholson, meanwhile, is starting to look and sound like Ronald Reagan. (It's that gravely voice and wrinkly skin - he's a shoe-in for the biography.) The acting will please any fan of his - not that I am - although it's not his finest hour. Dermot Mulroney is great as the mullet-haired future son-in-law: when he turns side on you can see the sun shining through the gap between his ears. Kathy is good, too.

If you like your dramas low-key and depressing, About Schmidt is the film for you.

Security censorship classification

M (Low level coarse language)

Surveillance time

125 minutes (2:05 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 6 February 2003

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