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About Schmidt (2002) - Blu-ray Review

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About Schmidt - Blu-ray Review

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5 stars

From the silent opening sequence to the arrival of Ndugu’s drawing at the very end, About Schmidt is a fantastic depiction of a lone man facing important choices at several of life’s crossroads all at the same time.  It is a film that breaks a lot of the dramatic rules with comic aplomb.  Grounded by a stellar performance from Jack Nicholson (which extends to his voice-overs as he reads the letters to Ndugu), About Schmidt achieves so much with so little that is, on top of being its own free-spirited marvel, a brave follow-up to Election for writer-director Alexander Payne.

Warren Schmidt, an insurance actuary in the famously dependable Woodmen Tower in downtown Omaha, Nebraska, is counting down the remaining final seconds of his last day on the job as About Schmidt opens.  He stares at the clock, waiting for the big hand to hit 12 and the little hand to step on 5.  His office is packed.  His desk is cleared.  The daily drama of a lifetime of work is over. 

But it isn’t, at least not yet as the biggest of his life’s surprises are yet to come. 

At the ripe age of 66, Warren Schmidt will lose his wife (the always reliable June Squibb), discover her affair with his best friend, hit the road solo in a 35-foot long Winnebago motor home, hand off his daughter, Jeannie (Hope Davis), in marriage to a waterbed salesman, Randall Hertzel (Dermot Mulroney), he doesn’t approve of, share a hot tub with Randall’s very naked twice-divorced mother, Roberta (Kathy Bates), and confess all his deepest (and hilarious) thoughts in letters to Ndugu, a 6-year-old Tanzanian boy he sponsors with $22 a month after watching a television commercial on his first day of retirement by an overseas charity.

Poor Mr. Schmidt.  We laugh and cry right next to Nicholson as he puts on his best schleb routine and wanders through the heart of Middle America failing to connect with other people.  He travels far and wide in search of ways he can make a difference but just can’t find a place for his well-meaning acts to make an impact.  Complete with combover, Nicholson plays his age, creating a whole new character with barely a hint of quizzically raised eyebrow or the usual Jack-the-lad charisma.  His self-effacing performance builds up our sympathy and understanding and leaves us at an unexpected ending that continues to remain with audiences long after the credits roll.

About Schmidt, Payne’s third feature, opened the 40th annual New York Film Festival in 2002 but failed to make an impact with audiences.  Maybe it was too real at the time because it is a seriously solid offering from Payne who continues to provide a very even-handed depiction of his home.  This release from Warner Bros marks its debut on blu-ray.

About Schmidt - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R for some language and brief nudity.
Runtime:
125 mins
Director
: Alexander Payne
Writer:
Alexander Payne
Cast:
Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney
Genre
: Drama | Comedy
Tagline:
Schmidt Happens
Memorable Movie Quote: "Well Ndugu, I'll close now. You probably can't wait to run and cash this check and get yourself something to eat."
Distributor:
New Line Cinema
Official Site:
Release Date:
January 3, 2003
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 3, 2015
Synopsis: Warren Schmidt (Nicholson) has arrived at several of life's crossroads all at the same time. To begin with, he is retiring from a lifetime of service as an actuary for Woodmen of the World Insurance Company, and he feels utterly adrift. Furthermore, his only daughter Jeannie (Davis) is about to marry a boob. And his wife Helen (Squibb) dies suddenly after 42 years of marriage. With no job, no wife, and no family, Warren is desperate to find something meaningful in his thoroughly unimpressive life. He sets out on journey of self-discovery, exploring his roots across Nebraska in the 35-foot motor home in which he had planned to drive around the country with his late wife. His ultimate destination is Denver, where he hopes to bridge the gulf between himself and his somewhat estranged daughter by arriving early to help with her wedding preparations. Unfortunately, he hates the groom-to-be Randall (Mulroney), a profoundly mediocre, underachieving waterbed salesman. To make matters worse, Warren is appalled by the free-spirited nature and boorish behavior of his soon-to-be in-laws (Bates and Hesseman). Warren grows swiftly convinced that his new purpose in life is to stop his daughter's marriage. During this darkly comic and painful odyssey, Warren details his adventures and shares his observations with an unexpected new friend and confessor -- Ndugu Umbo, a six-year-old Tanzanian orphan whom he sponsors for $22 a month through an organization that advertises on TV. From these long letters filled with a lifetime of things unsaid, Warren begins -- perhaps for the first time -- to glimpse himself and the life he has lived.

About Schmidt - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 3, 2015
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German SDH, Hungarian, Italian SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0; German: Dolby Digital 2.0; Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps); Portuguese: Dolby Digital 2.0; Hungarian: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps); Japanese: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: Region-free

Warner Bros presents the 1080p upgrade of About Schmidt in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and it looks great.  Being one of the last films to be completely processed through chemicals (it was shot on film, folks), the texture can’t be beaten.  Colors are strong with blues and grays being the dominant vibe.  Although it might appear soft at times, the transfer – even if it seems to be the same as the one used for the DVD release many moons ago – is generally sharp with a presentation that is clean and shows no noise whatsoever.  Shadows are deep and blacks are solid.  The film is never visually provocative or stunning, so the colors are rarely vibrant, but they do look very real and lifelike.  Despite being a soft-spoken character piece, About Schmidt includes both a Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround track that deliver the necessary goods.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

You won't find much supplemental material here.  The most important of the three items you'll find are the nine deleted scenes, all presented in anamorphic widescreen.  Payne delivers a text introduction for each that describes why he chose to leave the scenes on the cutting room floor.  Also on tap are five short films devoted to the Woodmen Tower.  Using footage for the opening credits of the film, Payne's assistant editors created some interesting pieces of their own.  Although the replay value of these shorts is pretty insignificant, it is appealing to see how the same footage can be edited differently to create five completely different moods.  The film’s original trailer rounds out the collection.

  • Deleted Scenes (30 min)
  • Woodmen Tower Sequences (20 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer

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