Warren Schmidt is a retired insurance salesman, who at age 66 has no particular plans other than to drive around in the motor home his wife insisted they buy. He's not altogether bitter, but not happy either, as everything his wife does annoys him, and he disapproves of the man his daughter is about to marry. When his wife suddenly dies, he sets out to postpone the imminent marriage of his daughter to a man he doesn't like, while coping with discoveries about his late wife and himself in the process.
Jack Nicholson's portrayal of Warren Schmidt, a retired, insurance executive from Omaha at loose ends after the death of his wife, may be the most astonishing dramatic transformation of his 44-year screen career. Plodding in a weary, stiff-legged shuffle, this great actor reins in his bad-boy mannerisms to convey a deep, sorrowful awareness of human complexity. As the movie follows the attempts of this staid 66-year-old everyman to regain his equilibrium, it sustains an exquisite balance between a satire of Middle American life and the wrenching pathos of Warren's situation, as he tries to form a bond with his resentful grown-up daughter (Hope Davis). Much of the story takes place on the road from Nebraska to her wedding in Colorado. Kathy Bates has a flashy comic turn as the groom's garrulous, overbearing mother. — Stephen Holden
2002-09-27 | Stephen Holden | Read the New York Times Review of About Schmidt