About Schmidt (2002)

“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.” By just about every indication, Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) has led a safe, boring and rather uneventful life. In the opening scene, Schmidt sits at his empty desk and stares intently at the clock, waiting for it to hit exactly 5 PM so he can exit the office where he has worked an insufferably dull job as an insurance actuary at Woodmen of the World for more than 30 years and start “enjoying” his retirement. Unfortunately, Schmidt never cultivated any interests outside of his work, so he quickly starts feeling bored and useless around the house with the vague feeling that he has totally wasted his life. Schmidt and his wife, “Helen” (June Squibb), have plans of traveling across the country in a recently purchased Winnebago (her dream of course!). However, after Helen dies suddenly of a blood clot and Schmidt discovers she had a long-ago affair with his best friend “Ray Nichols” (Len Cariou), he decides to take a road trip in the Winnebago on a journey of self discovery. After visiting various obscure roadside attractions along the way such as the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, Schmidt arrives in Denver with the intention of stopping the wedding of his daughter “Jeannie.” He believes that she can do much better than her dipshit fiance “Randall Hertzel” (Dermot Mulroney), a mullet-haired waterbed salesman who keeps trying to enlist Schmidt in a pyramid scheme. Schmidt stays at the home of Randall’s mother, “Roberta” (Kathy Bates), and meets the rest of his oddball family (including his dad and Roberta’s ex-husband “Larry” played by Howard Hesseman) as he continues to figure out a way to sabotage the wedding. Directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways), this immensely entertaining comedy-drama was loosely based on Louis Begley’s 1996 novel of the same name. Highlights include Schmidt fleeing to a bar during his depressing retirement dinner, Schmidt making a pass at the dude’s wife at the campground and then hauling ass out of there in the Winnebago, Schmidt looking with disgust at Randall’s childhood “participant” ribbons still proudly displayed by Roberta, the family dinner with nonstop bickering between Roberta and Larry, Schmidt sleeping on the waterbed and the infamous hot tub scene. Nicholson was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar but lost out to Adrien Brody (The Pianist).

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