The kind of movie you see late at night on Comedy Central. You keep thinking: "When does this movie become funny?", until you realize it is in fact not a comedy, but a drama. And then you continue to watch it anyway.
About Schmidt is a drama movie starring Jack Nicholson, playing Warren Schmidt. He is not a particularly nice person, since... well... we are talking about Jack Nicholson, so what did you expect?
Warren Schmidt just retired and has to face the fact that he has to spend his last remaining years on earth with his boring nagging wife. Out of boredom, he decides to adopt a foster child in Africa, to whom he writes letters about how much his life sucks now. One of the few things that keeps him going is his daughter, who is about to get married to a dimwitted, trailer-trash-like waterbed salesman.
As he goes out one day, mulling about how his wife he annoys him to no end, he returns to find that his wife has died from a blood clot in her upstairs department. Not much later, he finds some old love letters lying around the house. It turns out that his wife had an affair with his best friend, some 25 years earlier.
Deciding he had enough of just waiting for death to knock on his door, Schmidt embarks on a road trip to (stop!) his daughter's wedding, visiting the places he frequented throughout his life on his way over there.
The whole time Schmidt narrates his views through the letters he sends to his foster child in Africa. Along the line he reflects about the life he had, he learns to miss his deceased wife and starts questioning if anything he did actually made a difference to anyone.
- Academy Award: Jack Nicholson in a dramatic portrayal? More like Academy Award Bait.
- Bathtub Bonding: This is what Randall's mother attempts on Warren, to say the least.
- Bittersweet Ending: It's either this, or a Tear Jerker. Is Schmidt clutching on the letter from Ndugu's caretaker as a last resort, or is it genuinely worth sticking around for?
- Downer Ending: Narrowly averted in the end, when Schmidt receives a letter from his foster child.
- Fan Disservice: If there are still people out there who think Nicholson is still sexy: hot-tub scene.
- In Name Only: The book is about a widowed retiree who is unhappy with his daughter's marriage, but it is different in pretty much every other respect. The movie changed the setting, Schmidt's career, the daughter's career, the son-in-law's career, and eliminated the love affair that Schmidt had with a 25 year-old waitress.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Warren Schmidt. Now that he has gone into retirement, he realizes that he despises his wife. He is actually looking forward to a life without her. And then she dies... it takes a while before he realizes what he has to miss without her.
- Also the fumbling attempt of him trying to persuade his daughter not to marry her fiance. Yes Warren, you are right, but you don't have to be such of an ass.
- Kitsch Collection: Warren Schmidt's wife, Helen, collects little Hummel figurines, to Warren's displeasure. Later in the film Warren visits a museum full of them and has to admit they aren't all so bad. Warren and Helen are both in their late 60s, and Helen is depicted as grandmotherly, though technically not a grandmother.
- Large Ham: Totally averted by Nicholson. Even his grand speech during the wedding scene was low-key.
- Non-Nude Bathing: Warren during the hot-tub scene, in some edits. Randall's mother.
- Surrogate Soliloquy: Schmidt has a hard time dealing with his mandatory retirement from his mundane job as an insurance actuary. Feeling useless, he responds to a TV ad by "adopting," for a few dollars a month, an African foster child named Ndugu Umbo to whom he writes a series of frank letters describing his many problems, humiliations and misadventures. Schmidt's voice-over narration of these letters, which must make little sense to Ndugu in far-away Tanzania, reveals his troubled inner life with tragic-comic directness to the film's audience.
- To Absent Friends: Parodied somewhat, when the emotional ex-husband of Warren Schmidt's daughter's fiance's mother gets up to give a speech at the restaurant table. "If only my parents were with us today... but they are really here... right now... hi, Mom... hiya, pop..." Most of the family watches him give his speech, while Warren's head rolls around in meds-induced ecstasy.