The Good: Not much, moments of acting
The Bad: Utterly unlikable characters, Boring - if not, absent - plot, Obvious epiphanies
The Basics: When Harold Schmidt loses his wife, he latches onto his daughter in a boring cross-country odyssey to get to her boring wedding. Man, this film drags!
It's hard to muster a lot of enthusiasm for About Schmidt; and I am someone who enjoys a good depressing movie (Brazil) or a mid-life crisis movie (American Beauty). The overriding problem is that the movie is about dull people, doing dull things, while looking, feeling and acting utterly dull. I'm surprised I could muster up a sigh even after watching this.
Harold Schmidt has been forced into retirement and shortly thereafter, his wife dies leaving him very much alone. He adopts a foster child (like you see on the commercials for Christian Charities abroad) and sends the youth letters about what is going on in his life. The letters become his opportunity to vent and he describes meeting his daughter's fiance and going to her wedding cross country in his Winnebago.
The problem with About Schmidt is that it spends a great deal of time with Harold complaining, but he never has anything beyond that. That is to say that he complains because he doesn't like things, but he never offers any sort of ambition or idea about how things could be better. So, the film ends up being 125 long minutes of Harold Schmidt quietly whining about everything without ever progressing beyond that.
The unrelenting complaining, dejected staring and lack of wit to Schmidt makes Harold one of the lousiest protagonists in recent memory. The pedophile from Boogie Nights had more charisma than Schmidt and he was just plain wrong! Schmidt is like a one-man geriatric Waiting for Godot.
A big part of the problem is in the acting. Jack Nicholson has become typecast as a curmudgeon and in About Schmidt he plays the same role he has played, but without any of the flair he had in other roles. Nicholson plays Schmidt like his character in As Good As It Gets (reviewed here!), but without the anger. What do you have of that character without the anger? Just a boring old guy complaining. Or, like I said, Schmidt. The role adds nothing even remotely impressive to the repertoire; in fact, it detracts from it, given how disappointing the performance is.
Likewise, Kathy Bates is playing a loud, excitable, somewhat flamboyant woman. We've seen that before from her in Titanic (did I just admit to seeing that movie?!). Here she does it with a little more hickdom to it, but it wears thin long before her nude scene. In fact, quite possibly the only redeeming thing about About Schmidt is Kathy Bates' nude scene. Why? She looks like a real person. It's refreshing to see people other than the Hollywood ideal on our screens and Kathy Bates is a nice distance away from that standard.
Still, it's nowhere near enough to save this movie. It's long, pointless and the morals of it (live each day to its fullest, especially while you're young) have been done elsewhere with much better results. Even a Nicholson fan will have difficulty swallowing this one.
For other works with Kathy Bates, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Blind Side
Six Feet Under
For other film reviews, please be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all my movie reviews.
© 2012, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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