A high school teacher's personal life becomes complicated as he works with students during the school elections, particularly with an obsessive overachiever determined to become student body president.
Warren Schmidt has led a safe, predictable life working in the insurance industry in Omaha, Nebr. for many years, yet now faces retirement. At the same time he is forced to take a hard look at his wife, his life and his relationship with his estranged daughter. An often hilarious series of events follow as Schmidt embarks on an unpredictable RV journey to attend his daughter's wedding in Denver. Written by
Alexander Payne said the screenplay was a hybrid of the novel and his own original screenplay, "The Coward", which he wrote while a student at UCLA. The title, main character, and overall plot and theme were kept from About Schmidt, while The Coward was a story about a closed-minded man having a spiritual awakening as he closes in on the end of his life. See more »
During the dinner at Roberta's, a box of Milk-Bones is visible on the table, yet no dogs are ever seen. See more »
Relatively soon, I will die. Maybe in 20 years, maybe tomorrow, it doesn't matter. Once I am dead and everyone who knew me dies too, it will be as though I never existed. What difference has my life made to anyone. None that I can think of. None at all.
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I spent a day watching "About Schmidt", with Jack Nicholson... and then the evening rambling through reviews, since my wife's perception of the ending differed somewhat from mine....
Conflict can often lead to enlightenment and discovery, but not so in the case of Warren Schmidt. In his case it leads to a life of complacency, denial, delusion, and passive-aggressive behaviors... and eventually, to a meaningless life of servitude devoid of passion or purpose.
Since my wife and I are around the same age as the character, and we ponder the same issues of our lives, the film had more significance to us. I found the work to be a cinema-graphic piece of art laced with symbolism and dark humor (at best). I likened it to previous movies like "Death of a Salesman", "The Apartment", "The Swimmer" (Burt Lancaster), or a short filmed called "The Bridge".
As a cautionary tale (or social comment) on the "American Way" of life, the messages it conveys are slightly exaggerated, but nevertheless there to be debated. We are talking about identity, achievement, interpersonal relationships, and the "average IQ".
In the end, I believe this film will become one that is studied in future classrooms, and it was brave of Nicholson to participate in such a character study and a work intended primarily for writers, actors, and directors. If laughter is "the sound we make when we are surprised (or shocked) by the truth", then the amount of humor you find in this film may be directly related to your own level of naivety or denial. After all, laughter can often be just another defense mechanism, right?
Some movies are straightforward, some are magical, some are mystical, and then, some are symbolic. This movie falls into the last category. The use of time, space, cognitive dissonance, and Irony abound in this work and challenge us to look, think, and feel.
Notes: we would have cut or altered the "Percodan scene" at the rehearsal (as overdone), also note- the cattle at the funeral who later appear on the freeway, inside jokes about Des Moines and Denver, Randall's "Certificate of Attendance", the look on Jeannie's face at the end of Warren's speech at the Wedding Reception, the use of "overstatement", details of wall decorations, and Warren's obvious attraction to the trite, idealistic, delusional, and superficial.
If you are a thinking, feeling, serious movie-lover, you should SEE this film once, and then STUDY it the 2nd time!
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