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About Schmidt


TomJH
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I watched About Schmidt on DVD last evening. It’s the story about a 66-year-old man who has just retired, has a comfortable enough home but with a lot of time on his hands. He has a nice, pleasant wife, but thinks of her, when he looks at her, as an old woman who lives with him. But when he looks in the mirror he also sees his own wrinkles.

 

This might sound like potentially pretty depressing material, but, surprisingly, it’s not. Schmidt will soon be taking off on a journey in his large motor home, and it will be a trip about discovery, including one about his own, rather empty, life.

 

I would like to add that Schmidt is played by Jack Nicholson in one of his most self contained performances. Nicholson himself is the LAST person in the world who would identify with his character in this film, and audiences will be fascinated to see Jack so unlike himself in this film. You keep waiting for an outburst, a little bit of that Jack wickedness, to come to the surface.

 

There is a surprising amount of humour to be found in this film, most of it coming from Schmidt’s family of future in-laws, a family, to put it mildly, with whom Schmidt does NOT identify. The in-laws include Kathy Bates (a beautiful performance) and Howard Hesseman (Dr Johnny Fever from WKRP). The scenes with the in-laws are often quite priceless.

 

For those who have seen this film I have a question about the film’s somewhat ambiguous final scene. Nicholson’s performance in that scene quite moved me. But what is your interpretation of the scene, and Schmidt’s reaction to the letter and painting? I have my own interpretation.

 

A final comment. Among the scenes the DVD shows that were edited out of the film was one that had Jack sitting in a diner and giving a request to a waitress, who then tells him that they can’t give him what he wants. The scene was designed as a direct comparison to one of the most famous scenes in Nicholson’s career, that when he ordered that chicken sal sandwich from the snarky waitress, so many years before, in Five Easy Pieces. About Schmidt’s version was to show how times had changed since the Jack of 1970.

 

Acknowledging the fact that viewers that had never seen Five Easy Pieces wouldn’t “get” the scene in this film, I’m sorry that the director decided to chop this little moment from About Schmidt.

 

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I remember seeing this film when it was first released and also enjoying it, Tom. As you said, this was quite a departure from what people usually associate the roles Nicholson takes, and I thought he "underplayed" the role wonderfully.

 

Didn't know about the cut diner scene, but I suppose I can see why the director decided to cut it, as while it is a clever "homage", it probably isn't congruous with the overall story of a man who's always "followed the rules in life".

 

And re the final scene, I remember thinking that it was to make the point that perhaps Schmidt's life wasn't wasted after all, and a thought he had come to think of as true.  

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I remember seeing this film when it was first released and also enjoying it, Tom. As you said, this was quite a departure from what people usually associate the roles Nicholson takes, and I thought he "underplayed" the role wonderfully.

 

Didn't know about the cut diner scene, but I suppose I can see why the director decided to cut it, as while it is a clever "homage", it probably isn't congruous with the overall story of a man who's always "followed the rules in life".

 

And re the final scene, I remember thinking that it was to make the point that perhaps Schmidt's life wasn't wasted after all, and a thought he had come to think of as true.  

Dargo, I thought About Schmidt was quite a lovely little film, too.

 

Actually, without giving too much away, Jack's reaction in the edited diner scene in Schmidt did adhere to a man following the rules, a complete contrast to Five Easy Pieces.

 

Your interpretation of the final scene seemed to be that of the majority of reviewers, I gather. And it makes perfect sense, and is probably what the filmmakers intended.

 

I saw it a little differently, though. I thought that went Schmidt saw that simple child's drawing of a child holding the hand of an adult (presumably a parent-like figure, perhaps Schmidt himself) that Schmidt either had a flashback to his own youth (when the whole world still looked wonderful to him) or to his own young daughter (when she was his little girl, before she grew up, moved out into the world and things changed between them to some degree). His tears were because things hadn't turned out as he had assumed they would in times of greater optimism.The smile that Jack then had I interpreted as his being happy for his foster child. I thought that Jack had beautifully captured the mixed emotions of a man in regret over his own life, while at the same time happy for the changed future of a young child.

 

But, again, your interpretation may well be the more accurate one. And it's certainly a happier one.

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I would like to add that Schmidt is played by Jack Nicholson in one of his most self contained performances.

 

Works wonderfully, doesn't it. I'd rather watch this several more times than most of his other recent work (like 'The Departed' for example). Schmidt is one of his most "real" characters.

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Works wonderfully, doesn't it. I'd rather watch this several more times than most of his other recent work (like 'The Departed' for example). Schmidt is one of his most "real" characters.

I've always been a big admirer of Jack, going right back to when I first saw him at the movies in, ironically, Five Easy Pieces.

 

I haven't seen as much of his more recent work, though. Yes, I thought his performance in About Schmidt was quite wonderful. But I have no comment on The Departed, which I haven't seen.

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I saw it a little differently, though. I thought that went Schmidt saw that simple child's drawing of a child holding the hand of an adult (presumably a parent-like figure, perhaps Schmidt himself) that Schmidt either had a flashback to his own youth (when the whole world still looked wonderful to him) or to his own young daughter (when she was his little girl, before she grew up, moved out into the world and things changed between them to some degree). His tears were because things hadn't turned out as he had assumed they would in times of greater optimism.The smile that Jack then had I interpreted as his being happy for his foster child. I thought that Jack had beautifully captured the mixed emotions of a man in regret over his own life, while at the same time happy for the changed future of a young child.

 

But, again, your interpretation may well be the more accurate one. And it's certainly a happier one.

 

Can't argue against your added subtext here, Tom. In fact, I think your more involved interpretation of the character's reaction makes for an even more interesting thought in itself, AND could have been what the screenwriter, the director and Nicholson were going for.

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Can't argue against your added subtext here, Tom. In fact, I think your more involved interpretation of the character's reaction makes for an even more interesting thought in itself, AND could have been what the screenwriter, the director and Nicholson were going for.

Thanks, Dargo. Too bad Jack couldn't come on the thread, and tell us what he was trying to convey in that final scene.

 

Jack, oh Jack. Are you there?

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