Movie Review – About Schmidt (2002)

Been a bit behind on movie reviews this week so I’m going to try and catch up. About Schmidt is about Schmidt…Walter Schmidt (Jack Nicholson). He’s a man who has just retired from his job and is increasingly aware of the meaninglessness of his life. I suppose it’s something that a lot of people that age go through (although my grandparents keep themselves occupied and sad as it sounds they have more of a social life than me). Schmidt gave his life to the company but now he’s not needed, and he realizes that although he loves his wife there are some habits that irritate him. On a whim, he joins an ‘adopt a child’ service, and through the film he sends this child letters, detailing his frustrations with life, which we hear as a narration. 

I heard that this film was lauded and it has a pretty high rating. I enjoyed it but I though the lessons it taught were fairly obvious and it was material that a lot of other things have gone over before; work to live don’t live to work etc. The struggles he had to deal with were mundane but I liked that because it gave the film a realistic feel. I also liked how there wasn’t an easy solution to the problem. It’s not easy to fix the tangled threads of life, and even though he could identify the problem he didn’t know how to solve it, and that’s whta frustrated him the most. 

My interpretation was that he almost had a certain viewpoint of what people he should be friends with, or the type of person that he wanted to connect with and it just so happened that the people in his life weren’t his “type”. So it was either sacrifice a sense of belonging just to have some people around, or live alone. I thought it was a bit strange that he never even explored other avenues to make friends, but I suppose the film did show a short span of time. It’s telling that he did push away the few people he could have called friend, and in some ways he was his own worst enemy. 

However, I did think a lot of the people that he encountered were selfish as well and a lot of them didn’t care about him as a person (including his daughter), only what he could do for them. It was quite a grim outlook on human relationships really. But Schmidt wasn’t a sympathetic character for me, and perhaps he wasn’t supposed to be at all, because he did the same to the child. All through the film he narrated his own problems with life, and it just seemed as though he was using this child as a sounding board for his problems rather than taking an interest in the child’s life. So I felt a bit uncomfortable at some points because the film was a list of first world problems. The last scene was powerful though, and I like that it ended abruptly and leaves it open to interpretations. I choose to believe that Schmidt was crying because he realized that he was as bad as the people he had pushed away. 

I enjoyed the direction of the film as well. It was a very slow pace but it didn’t drag, and it’s always a risk to find that fine line. I think it’s definitely worth a watch, but after reading a few of the reviews on IMDB I think I have a slightly different interpretation than most people. 

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