Thursday, January 15, 2009

"About Schmidt" (2002) - Movie Review

How would be the day after your final day at work? Will it be just another day with the bright sunny morning or is the sun not going to rise up for you anymore? As the clock passes the time to kick off and get out from the house, you would be in the warmth of the cozy blanket of nothing to get up for. This is not the Sunday or the holiday but a day after the routine kept up for years, almost the entire part of your life keeping it busy and paid you for it. This is the day Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) begins to think of his life. What it has meant and it is not looking good.

Warren has finished his last day as the Assistant Vice President of a very large insurance firm in Omaha, Nebraska. He has nothing left to do other than stare as the clock hits five to check out from this room of escapist life he had forever. He has to go back to his wife Helen (June Squibb) whom he does not know anymore. She does not know him either but knows what she wants out of him. Keep him in check when his wandering mind steps him off the standards they have been living. Not big and not drastic. Just a little itsy-bitsy things which cannot be screamed or yelled but it is put to be nice which cannot be retaliated other than agonize the hell out of Schmidt.

Warren is an old school conservative office worker and a meticulous statistician. He knows numbers well enough and he is cheap. Cheap not because he opts to but it has become his skin and flesh. He has convinced himself to be rightful of his actions and lie himself to live with it. You can see it when he is dearly lovely daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) asks him why he chose such a cheap casket for the funeral of his wife, Helen. Helen’s death makes him go crazy as a magnetic needle disturbed by external forces. He misses his wife he hated and immediately hates her again when he finds out her affair with his best friend Ray (Len Cariou). He dislikes every existence of his future son in law Randall (Dermot Mulroney) and he has a good reason though he has sufficiently ignored his daughter’s life for a while to have some weight on his words on his advise to rethink her marriage. In this chaos he pours out his heart and breath to a foster child Ndugu in Tanzania through a charity service. He needs that much stranger to make his inner anger heard.

Warren is not perfect. And his life has not been perfect and being a man of numbers, he wants it to be one. And the old age is carving him up nice with empty times. He takes a road trip on the RV his wife made him buy before her death. He decides to do something what he thinks. He takes trips down old places he grew up and roads never taken, very safely though. Nicholson plays a subdued and average guy without flamboyance with all the energy and interest sucked out of this personality dangling in the middle of the road looking for attention and passion. He is too lazy and too adamant. He has lived a life and “About Schmidt” is an acknowledgement of his mistakes, choices and plain simple existence.

Alexander Payne never goes far away with the indie nature of the film. He is too calculative and I mean it as a great compliment. When the emergence of indie was seen as hip, he adopted it for the nature of the story than a style of it. He shapes up Schmidt through the brilliance of Nicholson to get into this awkwardness, selfishness and subtle foolishness with the aid of Kathy Bates as Roberta a two time divorcee and the mother of the groom.

I have seen “About Schmidt” a while back and for some reason the comedy in it did not roll me laughing at that time. Regardless of it, I was moved by the film. Now watching it again, it is a film of comedy. Complete comedy surrounded by the uncomfortable characteristic of Schmidt and the annoyance of not able to do anything to make a difference in his life especially in his daughter’s life. While it is true that Randall is the guy every one would stay away from due to his up to the face nature and jumping from one idea to other as picking pebbles on a lake shore but Schmidt sees a little character of himself in it. He also sees a lot of himself in his daughter and does not want her to be like him marrying the wrong person.

“About Scmidt” is about Schmidt. Old age is a character associated with it and not becomes the talking subject. Retirement is a tough thing. Being idle is the toughest thing possible. The greatest danger about it is the addiction towards it. While at the edge of your life if that is something one wants to do, it is an enjoyment but if some one repents it every day, it has issues. People generally at that time get involved with their future generation to keep them occupied. Schmidt is concerned of his very immediate generation, but the problem is he has to be concerned about himself before that.

No comments: