Sunday, February 23, 2003

About Schmidt (IMDB) (Netflix)
A rapid succession of life events (retirement, marriage of an only child and worse) cause Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) to re-evaluate his life in this most solemn of comedies. Taking to the road in his RV, he comes to grips with loss, the looming horizon of mortality and in-laws---lots of in-laws, richly played by Kathy Bates, Dermot Mulroney and Howard Hesseman, plus Hope Davis as his daughter.

It's instructive that when Schmidt cries at the end, it's essentially an upbeat ending that Elisabeth Kubler-Ross would approve of. This movie walks a tonal tightrope that's realistic, touching and instructive, and Nicholson is on a streak of vulnerable performances that began with As Good As It Gets and The Pledge. Bates and Mulroney are here for comic relief (we can retire the waterbed jokes now, OK?), and Davis has a fairly brave role as the daughter who's trying to break free just when Dad needs her the most. One of the most sincere and effective films about Middle America in some time.