Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alexander Payne|
|Produced by||Michael Besman and Harry Gittes|
|Screenplay by||Alexander Payne |
|Based on||About Schmidt by |
|Starring||Jack Nicholson |
|Music by||Rolfe Kent|
|Editing by||Kevin Tent|
|Distributed by||New Line|
|Release date(s)||December 13, 2002 (2002-12-13)|
|Running time||125 minutes|
About Schmidt is a 2002 American drama film directed by Alexander Payne, starring Jack Nicholson as Warren Schmidt and Hope Davis as his daughter Jeannie. It is loosely based on the 1996 novel of the same title by Louis Begley. Many of the scenes were filmed on location, especially in Omaha, Nebraska and Denver, Colorado. According to the special features on the DVD, a number of non-professional local residents appeared in the film, portraying their real-life professions. The actual Woodmen of the World headquarters building in Omaha was used in the film, and Jack Nicholson was made an honorary member of the company during filming.
The main narrative of the film follows Schmidt as he retires from his pedestrian job, followed by the untimely death of his wife for whom he has lost affection. He goes on a road trip in order to attend the wedding of his only daughter to a man and into a family he does not particularly like. Events compel him to reflect on his life with a sense of futility that lasts until the final moments of the film. The film was both a commercial and critical success.
Warren Schmidt is retiring from his position as an actuary with an insurance company in Omaha, Nebraska. Schmidt finds it hard to adjust to his new life and feels useless. One evening, he sees a television advertisement about a foster program for African children and decides to sponsor a child. He soon receives an information package with a photo of his foster child, a small Tanzanian boy named Ndugu Umbo, to whom he relates his life in a series of rambling letters.
Schmidt is given an impersonal retirement dinner. He visits his young successor's office to offer his help, but the offer is politely declined. As he leaves the building, Schmidt sees the contents and files of his office in the basement, set out for garbage collectors.
He describes to Ndugu his longtime alienation from his wife, who suddenly dies from a blood clot in her brain just after his retirement and their purchase of a Winnebago motor home. Friends arrive, along with his only daughter Jeannie and her fiance Randall Hertzel from Denver. They console him at the funeral, but Jeannie later berates him for taking his wife for granted, buying her a cheap casket. He asks her to move back for a while to take care of him, but she refuses.
Schmidt feels that Randall, a waterbed salesman, is unsuited to his daughter. Randall recommends the book "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" by Harold Kushner to Schmidt and then tries to entice him into a pyramid scheme. After the couple leaves, Schmidt is alone.
He stops showering, is shown sleeping in front of the television, and going outside with a coat over pajamas to load up on frozen foods in the supermarket. In a closet he discovers some hidden love letters disclosing his wife's long-ago affair with a mutual friend. Schmidt angrily confronts him.
In order to find some control in his life, he decides to take a journey alone in his new Winnebago to see his daughter and convince her not to marry. He tells Jeannie he's headed out early to the wedding; she makes it clear she doesn't want him there until right before the ceremony.
Schmidt visits places from his past, including his hometown and college campus. His childhood home has been replaced by a tire shop. While at a trailer campground, he is a dinner guest of a friendly and sympathetic couple, but leaves in terror and embarrassment after he makes a pass at the wife. He later apologizes to his late wife.
Schmidt arrives in Denver and stays at the home of Randall's mother. He wakes after a night in a water bed with severe pain. He meets the fiancé's family and again tries unsuccessfully to dissuade Jeannie from the marriage. Schmidt flees after the mother makes a pass at him in a hot tub. Schmidt attends the wedding and delivers a kind speech at the dinner, hiding his disapproval, although the (angry) subtext of what he's saying isn't lost on Jeannie.
Upon returning home to Omaha, his narrative to the orphan Ndugu questions what he has accomplished in life. Schmidt laments that he will soon be dead, that his life has made no difference to anyone and that eventually it will be as if he has never existed at all.
A pile of mail is waiting for him inside the empty house. Schmidt opens a letter from Tanzania. It is from a nun, who writes that Ndugu is illiterate but appreciates Schmidt's letters and financial support very much. The little boy's hand-drawn picture is enclosed, showing two smiling stick figures, one large and one small, holding hands in the blazing sun. Schmidt weeps silently, realizing that someone has benefited from his life after all.
- Jack Nicholson as Warren R. Schmidt
- Kathy Bates as Roberta Hertzel
- Hope Davis as Jeannie Schmidt
- Dermot Mulroney as Randall Hertzel
- June Squibb as Helen Schmidt
- Howard Hesseman as Larry Hertzel
- Harry Groener as Victor Rusk
- Connie Ray as Vicki Rusk
- Len Cariou as Ray Nichols
Although About Schmidt is set across the state of Nebraska, much of the movie was filmed in Omaha, mostly around Dundee, Millard, and the downtown area.
Locations used during production include:
- Woodmen of the World is an actual building in Omaha shown as Schmidt's previous workplace.
- Schmidt's house is located in the Dundee area of Omaha where Payne's previous films, Citizen Ruth and Election, were also filmed.
- The Tires Plus store that stands on the site of Schmidt's childhood home in Holdrege, Nebraska, was actually filmed in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
- University of Nebraska–Lincoln served as the campus for the University of Kansas.
- Great Platte River Road Archway Monument is an actual museum in Kearney, Nebraska. Like Schmidt does, one must wear headphones to tour the museum so they can listen to the voice-activated displays.
With the exception of the driving scenes, many of the locations used for Denver, Colorado were actually filmed in Omaha. This includes Roberta's house, Messiah Lutheran Church where the wedding was filmed, and the Dance City Centre used for the wedding reception.
The film won a Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, as well as the Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama. (Nicholson stated: "I'm a little surprised. I thought we made a comedy.").