About Schmidt

About Schmidt

Infobox Film
name = About Schmidt

imdb_id = 0257360
producer = Michael Besman and Harry Gittes
director = Alexander Payne
writer = Novel:
Louis Begley
Alexander Payne
Jim Taylor
starring = Jack Nicholson
Kathy Bates
Hope Davis
Dermot Mulroney
music = Rolfe Kent
cinematography = James Glennon
editing = Kevin Tent
distributor = New Line
released = December 13, 2002
runtime = 125 min.
language = English

"About Schmidt" is a 2002 American film directed by Alexander Payne and starring Jack Nicholson as Warren Schmidt and Hope Davis as his daughter Jeannie. It is based on the 1996 novel of the same title by Louis Begley but all it shares with the book is the title and the hero's surname. Everything else - Schmidt's profession, his location, the way his wife died, personality, etc. is changed. Important plot details in the book like his relationship with Carrie and his feelings about Jews and about selling his house do not appear in the movie. Many of the scenes were filmed on location, especially in Omaha, Nebraska and Denver, Colorado. According to the special features on the DVD, a number of non-professional local residents appeared in the film, portraying their real-life professions. The actual Woodmen of the World headquarters building in Omaha was utilized in the film.


The film begins with the retirement of Schmidt from his position as an actuary in an insurance company in Omaha, Nebraska. Schmidt finds it hard to adjust to his new life and feels useless. One evening, he is watching a television advertisement about a foster program for African children. He enters the sponsorship program and soon receives an information package with a photo of his foster child, a small Tanzanian boy named Ndugu, to whom he relates his life in a series of self-centered letters. The main narrative of the film follows Schmidt as he goes on a road trip in order to attend the wedding of his only daughter to a man and family he doesn't particularly like.

Schmidt retires from his job at the Woodmen of the World insurance company in Omaha, and is given an impersonal retirement dinner at a local steakhouse. He visits his young successor's office to offer his help, but he is not needed. As Schmidt leaves the building, he sees the contents and files of his office in the basement, set out for garbage collectors.

Schmidt describes to Ndugu his longtime alienation from his wife, who suddenly dies from a blood clot in her brain just after his retirement and their purchase of a Winnebago motor home. His friends arrive, along with his only daughter Jeannie and her fiance Randall Hertzel from Denver; they console him at the funeral, but he argues with Jeannie over money and the casket. Jeannie intends to marry Randall (played by Dermot Mulroney), a union opposed by Schmidt, who feels Randall, a water-bed salesman, is mediocre and unsuited to his daughter. Randall recommends the book "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" by Harold Kushner to Schmidt and then tries to entice him into a pyramid scheme. After the couple returns to Denver, Schmidt is again left alone.

Living alone, Schmidt stops washing, is shown sleeping and waking in front of the television, eating the entire contents of the kitchen, and going outside with a coat over pajamas to load up on frozen foods in the supermarket. In a closet he discovers some hidden love letters disclosing his wife's long-ago affair with a mutual friend. He travels to the man's workplace and, although at first he only plans to talk to him, is overcome with emotion and angrily confronts him. He is at a loss to explain the lack of power he has in his own life. This is shown through his inability to get his wife to remain faithful to him. In order to find some power and control in his life, he seeks out his daughter. He decides to take a journey alone in his new Winnebago to see his daughter and convince her not to marry. When he phones her, en route, to tell her he is coming a few weeks earlier than planned, she insists that he only arrive shortly before the wedding.

Schmidt then decides to travel to places of his past, and finds his childhood home in a small town has been replaced by a tire shop; he visits his former college fraternity house, and a small museum. While at a trailer campground, he is a dinner guest of a friendly and sympathetic couple there, but is thrown out after he makes a pass at the wife afterwards (presumably due to his loneliness after Helen's death). Schmidt arrives in Denver shortly before his daughter's wedding, stays there with her fiance's mother, and wakes after a night in a water bed with severe pain and immobility in his back and neck. He meets her fiancé's family and tries to dissuade her from the marriage. She and her fiancé argue. The family's dinner conversation is ruined by ridicule and obscene language. Schmidt is incapacitated after sleeping on a waterbed, and flees after the groom's mother makes a pass at him in a hot tub. Schmidt attends the wedding and delivers a kind speech at the wedding dinner, hiding his disapproval. After the speech, he leaves to use the bathroom, nearly broken from the pressure.

When he returns home to Omaha, his narrative to the orphan Ndugu questions what he has accomplished in life. Schmidt laments that he will soon be dead and that no one will remember him. A pile of mail is waiting for him inside the empty house. Schmidt opens a surprise letter from Tanzania. It is written by a nun who cares for Ndugu, and she writes briefly but warmly that Ndugu is illiterate but enjoys Schmidt's letters and financial aid very much. With the financial aid, Ndugu was able to receive much needed medical care to treat an eye infection. The little boy's hand-drawn picture is enclosed, showing two smiling stick figures, one large and one small, holding hands in the blazing sun. Schmidt weeps with emotion and the film ends.


*Jack Nicholson - Warren R. Schmidt
*Kathy Bates - Roberta Hertzel
*Hope Davis - Jeannie Schmidt
*Dermot Mulroney - Randall Hertzel
*June Squibb - Helen Schmidt
*Howard Hesseman - Larry Hertzel
*Harry Groener - Victor Rusk
*Connie Ray - Vicki Rusk
*Len Cariou - Ray Nichols


The movie is rated R ("Restricted; Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian") in the United States for some profanity and some brief nudity in a scene where Randall's sexually candid mother Roberta (played by Kathy Bates, known for her lead role in "Misery") tries to seduce Schmidt in a hot tub.


Jack Nicholson was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role in 2003 and Kathy Bates was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role but neither won.

The film did receive the 2003 Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, as well as the Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama (Jack Nicholson, who stated "I'm a little surprised. I thought we made a comedy.").

Box office

*Opening weekend U.S. gross: $8,533,162
*Total U.S. box office gross: $65,010,106

See also

*Fictional actuaries

External links

*imdb title|id=0257360|title=About Schmidt
*rotten-tomatoes|id=about_schmidt|title=About Schmidt
*mojo title|id=aboutschmidt|title=About Schmidt

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