I was quite surprised at how razor sharp and dead-on accurate this movie was at portraying, warts and all, the kind of man and setting you don’t often see on film. Nobody ever seems to get the very specific midwestern attitudes just right in the movies. This one has it in spades.
Jack Nicholson’s Warren Schmidt is a retired Midwestern curmudgeon with a chip on his shoulder, who’s missed out on a lot of great things in life. It’s just that the things he’s missed out on were right in front of him, and he doesn’t even know it.
Like in the superb “Election,” director/writer Alexander Payne shows off his unique talent for a subtle and funny story, peppered with the kind of detail to setting and character that only a true Midwesterner can fully appreciate. Believe me, there are some scenes in “About Schmidt” that are all too horrifyingly real. But the way he mixes in these not so flattering specifics with genuine sympathy is quite a trick.
Nicholson is absolutely fantastic in a role with no shouting or showboating. In some scenes, he merely fades to the background and observes the colorful characters around him.
On the surface, this is a seemingly simple story about a man lost in his life. But it’s really a deep character study of a sort of middle class conservative American person that I know very well. Rich with texture and detail, the movie is one I believe I will watch many more times and find something new each time. It’s one of the best movies of the year, an absolute original.