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About Schmidt (2002)

Any doubts you might have about the greatness of Jack Nicholson as an actor would be dispelled by this film.

He is never type-cast but his persona was more as rebel in confrontation.

Here he plays Warren Schmidt, a retired actuary in Nebraska, who buys a mobile home with the intention of travelling around the US with his wife but the plans have to change upon her sudden death.

The theme is a person in later life trying to assess his own worth and legacy.

He decides to foster a Tanzanian child Itogu and much of the film is his dialogue with him.

Schmidt’s daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis) is about to marry Randall Hertzel, a rather feckless waterbed salesman.

Schmidt does not approve of him but Jeannie’s strained relationship is further worsened when he makes this clear.

You might have thought a film about retirement set neither in New York nor California would lack immediate appeal but it doesn’t largely because Nicholson inhabits the role so convincingly and it is actually a comedy.

Randall ’s mother Roberta (Kathy Bates)  is an alcoholic ex-hippy who has designs on Schmidt.

At one point she persuaded him to take a hot tub and then (naked) joins him.

Nicholson’s face is a picture.

Director Alexander Payne also made Sideways, with a similar theme of self assessment through a road journey.

Here the main actor Paul Giamatta is a wine buff with a novel that he has yet to finish.

Payne is particularly adept in drawing fine performances from his lead actors.

Nicholson was already a big star whilst Giamatta went on to become one.

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About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts