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Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) has arrived at several crossroads at once, when he retires from a lifetime of service for an Insurance company. His wife of 42 years Helen (June Squibb) collapses and dies, leaving him totally adrift. His only daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) is about to be married to the very mediocre, underachieving water-bed salesman, Randall (Dermot Mulroney), who Warren dislikes intensely. Desperate to find some meaning to his life, Warren sets out on a journey in the 35 foot motor home in which he and his wife were planning to drive around the country. His final destination is Denver, where the wedding will take place, where he is appalled by the boorish behaviour of his soon-to-be in-laws (Kathy Bates and Howard Hesseman).

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If it wasn’t for the casting of Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt could have ended up as boring as batshit. The secret of its success as film is the baggage that Nicholson brings with him; our multi-verse experiences of him provide the backdrop and edge for his character. There’s no such possibility with the written word, where the novelist conjures up character without the aid of an actor’s dimensions. On the other hand, About Schmidt is a lovely piece of writing, a subtle work of minimalist pleasures in social observation. We recognise Schmidt as a real person, and despite the many differences, we recognise some of ourselves in him. If film is best as a character study, About Schmidt is a fine example of it, where the character we explore is neither cop nor thug, hero nor villain. Where there are no dynamic peaks, nor opportunities to do extraordinary things, just the suburban realities, and where the heroics of life are found in the secret moments of coexistence or loneliness. And letters to an adopted 6 year old in Tanzania, which become the device for revealing his conflicted inner life. It’s a life with the boring bits edited in. Nicholson makes a mediocre man wondrously memorable and is proof to the story-teller’s golden rule that every life hides a story (or two).

Special Features reviewed by Louise Keller:
For such a complex film, it is not surprising that the special features are equally complex. The Woodman Sequences is a most unusual offering, comprising a series of short films which second unit cameraman Radan Popovic and assistant Kaile Shilling were instructed to make. They were asked to try to place the Woodman Tower in the same part of the frame at all times – just like Xanadu appears in the opening sequence of Citizen Kane. They returned with so much footage and were asked to utilise their editing skills to create a short film. We are offered a menu with all five shorts – each with a different editor and music – so each short ends up with a very different feel. The focus in each case is the imposing Woodman Tower. The fourth one, edited by Danya Joseph with music by Andy Garfield is very different in that it uses subtitles like “The Ruthless Rusks have invaded Omaha!”

Deleted scenes are presented with their scene numbers and shots from the film have been included to show where they would have appeared, in order to give them context. They are each prefaced by an introduction that gives reasons for why they were omitted, but more interestingly other details pertinent to the scene.

Published September 4, 2003

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CAST: Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Len Cariou, Howeard Hesseman, Kathy Bates

DIRECTOR: Alexander Payne

SCRIPT: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (Based on novel by Louise Begley)

RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16 : 9 widescreen;

SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes; Woodman Sequences; Theatrical Trailer;

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: August 1, 2003

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