"About Schmidt"

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"About Schmidt"

Post by Belle » Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:30 am

I've just watched this 14y/o film for only the second time tonight; it reveals more subtle themes and ideas with each viewing. I think it's one of the best American films of the last 20 years, apart from Eastwood's "Gran Torino", "American Sniper" and "Million Dollar Baby") - I've yet to see the film "Sully". What a director!! (Comparatively recently I also saw one of his earlier 'revisionist' westerns, "Hang 'Em High", which was impressive.)

Jack Nicholson is just a phenomenon. In "About Schmidt" he plays the title role with great subtlety, understated tenderness and sympathy. I loved the droll humour and irony of much of the plot and it reminded me of Australian and British humour in its representation of ordinariness which is simultaneously depressing yet strangely reassuring. Certainly funny and ripe for laughs. Not belly laughs; subtle humour. There are painful hints that we may - some of us - suffer the same fate as Schmidt; to wonder if anybody will ever remember our existences after we're gone and the sense of loneliness and futility that can dominate those last years. The film asks the age-old existential questions.

However, this film doesn't take a one-dimensional view of working class people in the 'burbs or individual fate; it renders a complex image of people trapped in their lives but who seem to think it has more value to it than outside observation suggests; a kind of familial Stockholm Syndrome. The family into which Schmidt's daughter marries seem vulgar and crude yet are often kind and generous, but completely deluded. This is where most of the comic riffs reside, through well-aimed dialogue and cute sight-gags. The film subtly suggests that people can be happy with a parochial world view constructed around the quotidian, and this is contrasted with Schmidt and his sense that his own ambition was never really realized. In a sense, then, the film is also a clash of 'cultures'. Something for our times, then.

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