[box cover]

About Schmidt

About Schmidt is as much about star Jack Nicholson as it is about newly retired Omaha insurance actuary Warren R. Schmidt. Anyone who thinks that Nicholson has become a snarky, sneering, Lara Flynn Boyle-dating parody of himself in recent years (his Oscar-winning performance in As Good As It Gets only partially withstanding) is in for a pleasant shock from his first moments on screen in Alexander Payne's bittersweet comedy about life and purpose. Decked out in a bland suit and a painful comb-over, Nicholson's Schmidt is heading into retirement after a lifetime spent crunching numbers. But as he begins to realize how empty his life is without somewhere to go every day, Warren grows uneasy. Increasingly annoyed by the constant presence of his placid wife, Helen (June Squibb, who, unlike Jack's typical leading ladies, actually looks like Nicholson's contemporary), Warren complains about her in long, cathartic letters to Ndugu, the Tanzanian foster child he impetuously sponsors after a Child Reach TV commercial piques his interest. And then fate throws him a curve. Suddenly, Warren finds himself alone and aimless, and he falls comically apart. He gets himself back together (more or less) in time to hit the road in the brand-new motor home in which he and Helen had planned to tour the country. His mission? To drive from Omaha to Denver and stop his only daughter Jeannie's (Hope Davis) wedding to mulleted waterbed salesman Randall (Dermot Mulroney). But after a few misadventures and some eye-opening encounters with Jeannie's in-laws to be (most memorably, Kathy Bates as hot tub-loving free-spirit Roberta), Warren starts to realize that he's not entitled to change anyone's life but his own. Alexander Payne's talent at dark comedy was well-established with both Citizen Ruth and Election; Schmidt doesn't offer as many straight-out laughs as those films (though "Dear Ndugu" becomes a side-splitting punchline), but it goes a lot further into the realms of self-discovery and individual happiness. Through it all, Nicholson offers one of the best performances of his career. Appearing in virtually every frame of the film, his Warren is alternately smug, confused, selfish, clueless, helpless, mournful, and ultimately, hopeful. Traveling the interior roads of his mind as he covers miles of asphalt, Warren Schmidt goes further than he ever imagined. New Line's DVD release of About Schmidt features a strong anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and impressive DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (as well as 2.0 Stereo tracks and English and Spanish subtitles). The disc's main feature is a set of nine deleted sequences. Totaling just under 20 minutes of footage, the dropped bits include more bleak glimpses at Warren's post-retirement life, Warren hitting rock bottom after grocery shopping, an homage to Five Easy Pieces, and even a brief interlude used to replace the bathroom urination scene for TV and airplane versions of the movie. Textual comments by Payne put the footage in perspective. Also included are trailers, a Child Reach sponsorship envelope, and five short films offering "alternate" title sequences; Payne had his editors practice their skills with second unit footage of Omaha, and these shorts are the result. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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