Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alexander Payne|
|Produced by||Michael Besman
|Screenplay by||Alexander Payne
|Based on||About Schmidt
by Louis Begley
|Music by||Rolfe Kent|
|Editing by||Kevin Tent|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Running time||124 minutes|
About Schmidt is a 2002 American comedy-drama film directed by Alexander Payne, starring Jack Nicholson in the title role. It is very loosely based on the 1996 novel of the same title by Louis Begley.
The film follows Schmidt as he retires from his pedestrian job, followed by the death of his wife for whom he has lost affection. He goes on a road trip in order to attend the wedding of his only daughter to a man and into a family he does not particularly like. Events compel him to reflect on his life with a sense of futility that lasts until the final moments of the film. The film was both a commercial and a critical success.
Warren Schmidt is retiring from his position as an actuary with Woodmen of the World, an insurance company in Omaha, Nebraska. Schmidt is given a retirement dinner that seems to bring no comfort. Schmidt finds it hard to adjust to his new life outside of work, feeling useless. One evening, he sees a television advertisement about a foster program for African children, Plan USA, and decides to sponsor a child. He soon receives an information package with a photo of his foster child, a small Tanzanian boy named Ndugu Umbo, to whom he relates his life in a series of candid, rambling letters.
Schmidt visits his young successor to offer his help, but the offer is politely declined. As he leaves the building, Schmidt sees the contents and files of his office, the sum of his entire career, set out for garbage collectors.
He describes to Ndugu his longtime alienation from Helen, his wife, who suddenly dies from a blood clot in her brain just after his retirement and their purchase of a Winnebago Adventurer motor home. Friends arrive, along with Jeannie, his only daughter, and her fiancé Randall Hertzel from Denver. They console him at the funeral, but Jeannie later berates him for taking his wife for granted, such as by refusing to fully pay for the Winnebago (he wanted the cheaper Mini Winni) and burying her in a cheap casket. He asks her to move back for a while to take care of him, but she refuses. Meanwhile, Randall tries to entice him into a pyramid scheme.
Schmidt feels that Randall, a waterbed salesman, is unsuited to his daughter, who he feels could do better. After the couple leaves, Schmidt is overcome by loneliness. He stops showering, sleeps in front of the television, and goes shopping with a coat over pajamas to load up on frozen foods. In his wife's closet he discovers some hidden love letters disclosing her long-ago affair with a mutual friend. Schmidt angrily confronts the friend, cursing the betrayal.
In order to find some control in his life, he decides to take a journey alone in his new Winnebago to see his daughter and convince her not to marry Randall. He tells Jeannie he's headed out early to the wedding, but she makes it clear she doesn't want him there until right before the ceremony.
Schmidt visits places from his past, including his hometown and college campus. His childhood home has been replaced by a tire shop. While at a trailer campground, he is a dinner guest of a friendly and sympathetic couple. Schmidt makes a pass at the wife, and flees in terror when she adamantly rejects his advance. Schmidt later forgives the late Helen for the affair and apologizes to her for his own failings as a husband.
Feeling full of purpose after forgiving his wife, Schmidt arrives in Denver with the intent of stopping Jeannie's wedding. He stays at the home of Roberta, Randall's mother. He meets Randall's socially odd, off-putting family and tries unsuccessfully to dissuade Jeannie from the marriage. Schmidt throws out his back after sleeping on Randall's waterbed, infuriating Jeannie. Schmidt later flees to his Winnebago after Roberta makes a pass at him in a hot tub. The next day, Schmidt, under the influence of oxycodone, attends the wedding and delivers a kind speech at the dinner, hiding his disapproval.
Before leaving Denver, Schmidt composes a letter to Ndugu. Schmidt questions what he has accomplished in life, lamenting that he will soon be dead, that his life has made no difference to anyone, and that eventually it will be as if he has never existed at all.
A pile of mail is waiting for him at home. Schmidt opens a letter from Tanzania. It is from a nun, who writes that Ndugu is illiterate and doesn't know English but appreciates Schmidt's letters and financial support very much. A painting drawn by Ndugu is enclosed, showing two smiling stick figures, one large and one small, holding hands on a sunny day. The film ends with Schmidt weeping in delight as he realizes his life has indeed made a difference.
- Jack Nicholson as Warren R. Schmidt
- Kathy Bates as Roberta Hertzel
- Hope Davis as Jeannie Schmidt
- Dermot Mulroney as Randall Hertzel
- June Squibb as Helen Schmidt
- Howard Hesseman as Larry Hertzel
- Harry Groener as John Rusk
- Connie Ray as Vicki Rusk
- Len Cariou as Ray Nichols
- Phil Reeves as Minister in Denver
Locations used during production include:
- Located at 1700 Farnam St., Woodmen of the World is an actual building in Omaha shown as Schmidt's previous workplace.
- Schmidt's house is located in the Dundee area of Omaha where Payne's previous films, Citizen Ruth and Election, were also filmed.
- The Dairy Queen restaurant is located at 5071 South 136th Street, in the Millard suburb of Omaha.
- The shopping center were he confronts his friend Ray is at the corner of U.S. Route 275 and South 50th Street, in South Omaha.
- The camping scene was filmed at Louisville State Park approximately 12 miles south of Omaha, along the Platte River.
- The Tires Plus store that stands on the site of Schmidt's childhood home in Holdrege, Nebraska, was actually filmed in Council Bluffs, Iowa at 2103 W. Broadway St.
- The gas station Schmidt calls his daughter from, is located about 7 miles North of Nebraska city on highway 75.
- University of Nebraska–Lincoln served as the campus for the University of Kansas.
- Great Platte River Road Archway Monument is an actual museum in Kearney, Nebraska. Like Schmidt does, one must wear headphones to tour the museum so they can listen to the voice-activated displays.
- The former First Christian Church served as the exterior church scene where Jeannie and Randall are married. The Usonion styled building is located at 950 28th Street in Boulder, Colorado. It appeared very briefly in the film just prior to the wedding rehearsal scene.
With the exception of the driving scenes, many of the locations used for Denver were actually filmed in Omaha. This includes Roberta's house, Messiah Lutheran Church where the wedding was filmed, and the Dance City Centre used for the wedding reception.
In the United States, the movie grossed $8,533,162 on its opening weekend. Its total U.S. box office gross stands at $65,010,106, while total worldwide gross totals $105,834,556.
Critical response 
About Schmidt has gained positive reviews from critics, who have singled out the two performances of Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 85% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 201 reviews with a "Certified Fresh" rating and an average score of 7.7/10. The site's consensus states: "In this funny, touching character study, Nicholson gives one of the best performances of his career". On Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 based on reviews from critics, the film has a score of 85 (citing "universal acclaim") based on 40 reviews.
Roger Ebert wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times that About Schmidt "is essentially a portrait of a man without qualities, baffled by the emotions and needs of others. That Jack Nicholson makes this man so watchable is a tribute not only to his craft, but to his legend: Jack is so unlike Schmidt that his performance generates a certain awe. Another actor might have made the character too tragic or passive or empty, but Nicholson somehow finds within Schmidt a slowing developing hunger, a desire to start living now that the time is almost gone." Michael Rechtshaffen of the The Hollywood Reporter said that "It's a commanding Jack Nicholson lead performance that puts it into a sublime league of its own." Paul Clinton writing for CNN.com said that "About Schmidt is undoubtedly one of the finest films of the year. If you're not deeply touched by this movie, check your pulse."
Jack Nicholson was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role in 2002 and Kathy Bates was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The film found more success at the 60th Golden Globe Awards, winning the awards for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama. Upon accepting his award, Nicholson stated, "I'm a little surprised. I thought we made a comedy."
Home media 
About Schmidt was released on DVD and VHS formats soon after its theatrical run. There has been no Blu-ray release.
- "About Schmidt (2002) – Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
- "About Schmidt (2002)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
- "About Schmidt Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
- Ebert, Roger (20 December 2002). "About Schmidt". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
- "Review: 'About Schmidt' a triumph", By Paul Clinton CNN, Friday, December 13, 2002. Retrieved Nov 12, 2012.
- "Festival de Cannes: About Schmidt". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
- About Schmidt at the Internet Movie Database
- About Schmidt at Rotten Tomatoes
- About Schmidt at Box Office Mojo