Nicholson brilliant as ‘Schmidt’

Mike Schoeck

Directed by newcomer Alexander Payne, “About Schmidt” stars screen veteran Jack Nicholson, who packs on a few pounds for his Golden Globe winning role as the freshly retired Warren Schmidt.

“Schmidt” is a recently retired Nebraskan insurance executive who faces an ambiguous future as his wife Jeanie (Hope Davis) dies suddenly one morning.

Shocking at first, Schmidt soon realizes how chained and disconnected from interpersonal life he really was.

His daughter is marrying the odd Randall Hertzell, a mullet-clad water-bed salesman played by Dermot Mulroney. What was then normal to Warren Schmidt is now something to be turned upside down altogether, even though he never paid attention to anything before.

Before his wife of thirty-plus years dies, Schmidt begins writing to an orphan African boy, Ngudu, to which he fosters some off-beat fatherly charm from his own life with the small donation we’ve all seen on those pitying infomercials with washed-out actresses like Sally Struthers and Bette Midler.

With his attempt to break up his daughter Helen’s (June Squib) wedding to Randall in Denver and calling his forty-foot Winnebago his home in the meanwhile, Schmidt realizes that he wasted his life. With the exception of the quirky encounters and bonds he makes en route and in Denver, Schmidt didn’t exist, as Nicholson says.

“About Schmidt” is based on Louis Begley’s novel, and oddly enough Nicholson takes on a dark role similar to Gene Hackman in “The Royal Tenenbaums.”