Starring: Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Kathy Bates, June Squibb
Directed By: Alexander Payne
There was a period of a few years where Jack Nicholson made some really good comedy/dramas, all of them to some extent about getting older, and got award recognition for most of them. He started with As Good As It Gets, following it up with About Schimdt, then with Something’s Gotta Give, and winding down with The Bucket List. Four films, two Oscar nominations, one win; three golden globe nominations, two wins. Pretty impressive. For a man who has been nominated for twelve Academy Awards and seventeen Golden Globes, where could a film like About Schmidt hope to fall in his career?
I think it’s different than a lot of the films in his career, in that he only gets to have brief moments of rage. Nicholson is well known for having his extreme outbursts of anger in films like The Shining and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Most of this performance is restrained, but you can feel the anger seeping out in a few select scenes. It’s the kind of performance where you really can’t imagine anyone else in the role. It feels tailor made for Nicholson. Even another super talented actor like Robert DeNiro would make it feel like a completely different person and an entirely different movie.
Another large part of Nicholson’s success with Schmidt is director Alexander Payne. Payne is excellent at handling these quirky comedy dramas. He was a film away from true perfection with Sideways, but that doesn’t mean About Schmidt still isn’t a great film. It’s got a great performance from Nicholson, a daring look at Kathy Bates (and I mean that quite literally), and a kind of look at midwestern americana that you just can’t find anywhere but in an Alexander Payne film.
It’s easy to say to watch About Schmidt for Nicholson’s performance, but Alexander Payne is one of only a handful of exceptional directors who are able to leave their stylistic touch on a film. You can tell it’s an Alexander Payne film, just like you can feel Chris Nolan, or Wes Anderson. He’s at the top of his game, and for both reasons, it’s a film worth watching.
FINAL GRADE: A