I don't know if I've ever been more depressed watching a film than I was watching "About Schmidt." I guarantee you, most people, including myself, do not want to be alerted to the idea that our lives, when all is said and done, rarely amount to anything. Frankly, I want to believe that I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread until just before the moment I die. Maybe I'll then realize I'm not the greatest thing since sliced bread, but at least the realization won't last too long.
Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) is a particularly stellar example of a life not amounting to anything. He retires from his job as an insurance adjuster and suddenly realizes his life has no meaning. Then his wife (June Squibb) dies and he realizes that he's a complete failure -- a man who's done nothing to distinguish himself.
He reveals all this in a letter to some little African kid he's sponsoring. Apparently, he wants to provide the kid with both the resources to live and the will to die. From all appearances, this is the first time in Warren Schmidt's life that he's bothered to do any reflecting, but it's so late, there's nothing he can do about it.
What he tries to do is connect with his daughter, Jeannie (Hope Davis), in some way. He goes to Denver with the intention of stopping her wedding to Randall (Dermot Mulroney) because he thinks Randall isn't good enough for his daughter.
There is just no redeeming value to Schmidt's life at all. You'd think director Alexander ("Election") Payne would give the audience the tiniest ray of hope, but no such luck. This guy's life is so sad that he doesn't even realize his daughter is just a below-average schmo like him (that's usually what happens: schmo parents have schmo kids). The crowning achievement to this circus of melancholy is watching Randall's mother, Roberta (Kathy Bates), disrobe and join Warren in the hot tub. For God's sake: She's old and she's fat. These are not characteristics that scream "hot tub nude scene" to me, yet it all just seems like part of Payne's master plan to make us want to kill ourselves by the time his film is over.
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