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About Schmidt

Warren Schmidt has worked in the insurance industry for many years, and now it's time for his hard-earned reward: retirement. But what is a reward to some is a showstopper for others. What will he do now? How will he proceed in life? Warren gets even more to think about when a tragedy happens with his wife as well...

Jack Nicholson is one of those actors who's admired for his larger-than-life performances, but can also be surprisingly sensitive when he wants to be. In this movie, he deplays the most natural acting he's ever pulled off in his career. Everything we see and feel with this character feels completely real. He goes about his daily routines, he engages in smalltalk (keeping his own little grievances mostly to himself) and has a somber expression and drooping eyes which show he's not getting younger. It blurs the line between watching someone acting and just... watching someone. Warren is very softspoken, and keeps a lot inside. The only time he gets a chance to express himself fully is to Ndugu, his donor child. This provides an interesting choice of narrative, where we get to follow a spiritual journey expressed through his letters, and Jack's slow, methodic narration works quite well. He's shown as more much more likeable than some of his other characters too, where he seems to get annoyed by a lot of things, but also genuinely cares about people. He wouldn't be on his daughter's case about her new boyfriend if he didn't care about her. Even more so when his wife Helen passes away, he doesn't want her to grow into a life full of disappointment. Randall is the pretty-boy type he absolutely hates: making money in dishonest ways, acting so perfect and polite that it's almost like a joke, and as he finds out later on, has a family full of freaks. But no matter how much he hates him, Jeannie loves Randall, and won't do anything to let him interfere with their happiness. The movie smartly sometimes makes you side with Warren, other times doesn't. In a way I can understand Warren's problem, there's something about Randall that seems very fake, and that he's too full of himself to be a decent partner for his daughter. In another, Warren doesn't rule over her anymore. If she loves him that much, she has the right to stay happy that way.

Warren's soul searching trip with his van ranges very often between comic and deeply sad. When he arrives at his old childhood home only for it to be turned into a tire shop, you gotta smile at how he doesn't mind it in the least and just happily talks about his memories to the shopkeep. Or when he arrives at his old school and shares a motto with the other students that leaves them confused. But when he meets up with two other travelers, things turn dark. After he gets some time alone with John's wife Nicki, she starts to psychoanalyze him, and sees right through his happy fascade right away that he's been unhappy for a long time, and feel like he's accomplished nothing. Mistakenly taking them as inviting words, he kisses her. Obviously, she's shocked that a lonely old man kisses her out of nowhere and throws him out. Now, I'm not saying that he was right to kiss her, because that was literally the worst thing to do in that situation. But what kind of right does she have to psychoanalyze him like that when he was just having a good time, laughing and enjoying their company? For the first time in long, he seemed to legitimately enjoy being with people, and not having to worry about anything. And so we follow him as he briskly leaves to do his healing elsewhere. One of the most touching scenes in the film is when he looks up at the stars, forgiving Helen for cheating on him when he constantly rejected her, and also questioning if she stayed with him because she loved him, or did it because she didn't want to hurt him.

The last act involves him spending time with Randall's family, a band of misfits, but none of them more so than Roberta. Not only is she one of those talky types who will utter any kind of nonsense without second thought, but she's uncomfortably open about sex as well, much more than Warren is used to, going so far as to assume the reason Randall and Jeannie stick together so well is because of their lively sex life. Kathy Bates provides some needed comedic relief in her role, and despite the somewhat annoying nature of her character is fun to watch. Nothing is more memorable than when she sits down in the jacuzzi together with Warren, whose look on his face is that of Oh-God-what-the-hell-am-I-getting-myself-into, and gets up as soon her flirting goes too far. He reacts exactly what a person who wouldn't want to find him/herself in that situation would do, and it's priceless.

The final conclusion is the wedding, where you wonder if Warren will do something to stop it or not. Will he blindly accept his daughter's happiness or steadily refuse and protest in front of everyone?
WARNING: spoilers below
He opens his speech rather negatively, re-iterating what he and his wife have said about their daughter's boyfriend, that he's up to no-good. But then he cops out and instead delivers a speech dripping with such intensity and heart that you'd be crazy not to believe it. But Jeannie knows her father, and that despite how convincing he came off, none of it was genuine. And Warren isn't happy that he didn't go through with it, and takes a miserable piss afterwards, in disbelief over what he just did.

But just when things look the bleakest and Warren's had nothing but disappointments, he gets a letter from a nurse taking care of Ndugu, who's made a drawing where they hold hands. You start to tear up along with Warren, who is crying over someone ever making such a sweet gesture for him. Just by telling a small child pieces of his life, he's found someone who gives it meaning. A reason for him to not give up, to enjoy what he's been given.