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About Schmidt


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#1 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 09:59 AM

I'll find the links from the other board concerning this film.

We just watched it again, and face the same dilemma as before.

For a straightforward narrative, it gives me so much trouble reading Payne's intentions. I have maintained that I think he is treating his subject and characters with sincerity, and I am moved by Schmidt's inner doubts and small comforts. At the same time, I am so wary that Payne is having one over on me, and I just can't bother to open my eyes to see it.

#2 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 10:02 AM

http://www.novogate....2/155872-1.html

http://www.novogate....3/131403-1.html

#3 Alvy

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 10:23 AM

Oh good, an About Schmidt thread. I just saw this on DVD last weekend.

I liked the ambiguity. Rather like One Hour Photo, I thought, this film took a star and cast him somewhat against type, as a character that was far from black and white. The slight nervousness you feel about the film is an appropriate response, I think.

I hope to see it again sometime soon.

#4 Alvy

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 10:41 AM

Sheesh. Just read those threads.

Bunch of party-poopers.

Interesting, though.

#5 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 10:45 AM

We must hold on to our non-cynicism, Alvy!

The film is good! Sometimes people who are thrust upon you as in-laws have mullets. We must learn to look beyond the mullet!

#6 Anders

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 11:40 AM

I'll be honest. I found About Schmidt depressing. I was scared at how many of the characters in the film I could recognize (in one form or another) in the people around me. Think this is pretty much a repeat of what I said in the other forum, but the film challenged me to really do something with my life and love people. Because I can't think of anything more depressing than being 65 years old and finally finding some self-worth from something as small as a form letter from World Vision.

I think in that sense it is a good film. It had a positive effect on me, though perhaps in a way different than Payne intended. I think sometimes we are so cynical of characters finding contentment, or love, or whatever in films too easily or in things that aren't really all that deep or meaningful, yet look around us at how people respond to these things in real life. There are a whole bunch of people at my church who seem to have found their life's calling in something called Marriage Encounter. I'm not meaning to belittle the program (from what I hear it's quite good), but I'm just pointing out that sometimes people can find things in places that I think are perhaps quite trivial.

So while I found the film to be quite depresssing, I think I'm forced to have a fondness for some of the characters (even if Payne doesn't), because these are people I know.

#7 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 12:43 PM

I'll be honest. I found About Schmidt depressing. I was scared at how many of the characters in the film I could recognize (in one form or another) in the people around me. Think this is pretty much a repeat of what I said in the other forum, but the film challenged me to really do something with my life and love people. Because I can't think of anything more depressing than being 65 years old and finally finding some self-worth from something as small as a form letter from World Vision.



Sure, it's depressing. One of the film's strengths, I think, is the way that it shows how middle America can strive after empty cisterns of its own. We're used to seeing how striving after fortune, fame and the woman who is not your wife is a recipe for disillusionment. We're not used to seeing how working faithfully, coming home to your wife every night and being a good citizen can still leave one unfulfilled.

One strange and uncommonly insightful thing about the film is that I find I cannot simply reduce Schmidt's problems down to a simple "This is what's wrong and here's what he should have done instead." Schmidt claims he didn't reach for the brass ring because he had a family to take care of and his wife wouldn't have permitted it. Is there anything to it, or is he trying to excuse himself for being too much of a milquetoast to try to achieve his dream? His daughter claims he's far too late in his attempt to be involved in her life decisions. It appears, though, that he's always held a low opinion of Randall, and he's not the one who moved to Colorado. Was his wife a caring woman who waited on him his entire life, or an embittered shrew who interrupted his every sentence and quashed his every dream?

Who knows? A little of all of those, probably. It's a broken world and things fall apart. They rarely fall apart in neat pieces.

For that matter, they rarely put themselves together in neat pieces. I think Schmidt's tearful moment at the end is not a harbinger that the rest of his earthly life will be purposeful. I think he'll continue on much as he did before-- careening back and forth between glimmers of meaning and hope and existential despair. It's what we do.

#8 chansen

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 01:50 PM

Oooo -- glad to hear some positive thoughts on this film, because I was moved by it as well. I think I went into it expecting a very cynical film because of Payne's previous films, and while it did have a lot of cynicism in it, it wasn't directed so much at Schmidt's desire to find fulfillment.

I felt like Payne was painting a portrait for us of a man whose life meant nothing -- and who is just coming around to realize that. And as he bumbles his way through trying to make his life mean something, we laugh at him sometimes and yet I think don't feel like he's a total jerk. I felt pity for him, for his misguided attempts to find love and affection, and his misguided desire to achieve fulfillment by stopping his daughter's wedding...

It WAS pathetic and sad that he found so much meaning in that little letter from (what was the name of the organization again? World Reach?)... but it was touching too, and I felt like there was a staement there that the smallest act of real kindness can mean something -- that it didn't have to be some grand gesture like stopping the daughter's wedding... which was selfish in some ways because it was about Schmidt not liking her fiance, not about what she really wanted. It was about Schmidt thinking the guy wasn't good enough, when in truth the problem was Schmidt raising a daughter whose expectations were rock bottom because of the life he led.

And yes, the ending is problematic -- is the film trying to say that sending money to an org like that is the solution to fidning meaning in your life? I didn't take it that way. It wasn't trying to be a neat and tidy ending... but more of a revelation for Schmidt about the sad state of his life and the directions he took.

Anyway, I liked it (duh!). I was expecting it to be a cynical film that made fun of Schmidt's character and how pathetic his life was... but it made me feel like it cared about him and wanted people to examine their own lives.

Chris

#9 Anders

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 04:20 PM

I just want to say that I pretty much agree with everything that Russell said. Very nicely stated.

Who knows? A little of all of those, probably. It's a broken world and things fall apart. They rarely fall apart in neat pieces.

For that matter, they rarely put themselves together in neat pieces. I think Schmidt's tearful moment at the end is not a harbinger that the rest of his earthly life will be purposeful. I think he'll continue on much as he did before-- careening back and forth between glimmers of meaning and hope and existential despair. It's what we do.



I completely agree with this part. I think About Schmidt is an example of a film that is depressing, yet speaks to something very true about life.

#10 DanBuck

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Posted 08 July 2003 - 05:22 PM

Just a little personal survey...


How many of you saw your own father in Schmidt?

I did =;

#11 LoneTomato

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 04:34 AM

How many of you saw your own father in Schmidt?



I'm Asian-American born and raised in Hawaii. I don't think I've ever seen an RV in Hawaii, let alone my father in one.O:)

My favorite part about Schmidt (heh heh) was the storytelling. I especially loved the way N'dugu (sp?) was used to flesh out Schmidt's thoughts - it's a very clever way to dress up what would otherwise be your standard, everyday voice over...and some of the things he wrote to that boy were so funny! I'll bet he grows up to be an anthropologist who studies American culture.

#12 Russell Lucas (unregistered)

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 12:51 PM

Just a little personal survey...


How many of you saw your own father in Schmidt?

I did =;



Not me. My dad looks more like Gene Hackman.

#13 Anders

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 01:22 PM

My grandfather looks more like Gene Hackman, but acts more like Warren Schmidt. :wink:

#14 Darrel Manson

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 01:28 PM

Just a little personal survey...


How many of you saw your own father in Schmidt?

I did =;

I'm old enough to see myself, thanyouverymuch

#15 Alvy

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 01:44 AM

Originally posted by AlanW:
Here's a contentious questions: Was Warren's toast the right thing to do, or does it just further the very artificiality and insincerity the movie so harshly condemns?

Do you mean right of Warren, or right of the filmmakers? If the latter, I am not sure in what way you are suggesting it might further artificiality and insincerity.

#16 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 03 August 2003 - 08:15 AM

Just in case anyone wants to relive the original discussions around this film, here are a few of the older threads on it:

http://www.novogate....3/131403-1.html
http://www.novogate....3/146351-1.html
http://promontoryfil...s/155872-1.html

AlanW wrote:
: Personally, I think it is a sincere movie, if for no other reason than the
: inclusion of Childreach (including the response envelope in the DVD
: packaging).

Wow, interesting.

: I also think that the reason it is depressing is the same reason
: Ecclesiastes is depressing--it points out the frequent and inexcusable
: shallowness in all our lives.

But does Ecclesiastes hold us in contempt for this shallowness? Does it mock us? The second time I saw this film, I came away with the feeling that the critics who found it overly cynical were probably right. You might say some people find the FILM frequently and inexcusably shallow, especially in its treatment of all the people that Schmidt meets.

: Here's a contentious questions: Was Warren's toast the right thing to do,
: or does it just further the very artificiality and insincerity the movie so
: harshly condemns?

I can't look at that scene in terms of right and wrong. Schmidt decides to play along, rather than disrupt everyone's good time -- putting others first is not necessarily a bad thing, is it? And yet his heart is clearly not in it, and I can't imagine his daughter is actually satisfied with anything he says -- and the film has already made her look pretty bad and undeserving of his consideration.

: But isn't that the problem? Isn't not being honest about your thoughts
: and feelings just part of the whole system that Warren has been a part
: of? Isn't it part of why he is so alone and such a "sad, sad, man?"

I dunno, there are times and places for blunt honesty, and I don't think a wedding reception is one of those times. Schmidt was honest with his daughter BEFORE that scene, and she didn't like it, so she was honest back to him, and after that, they put their honesty aside and got on with the wedding. If Schmidt was going to take part in that wedding, then he knew he could not do it "honestly". So he put his social obligation ahead of his "honesty". I can't say I'd assume that's necessarily a bad thing.

#17 MattPage

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 03:47 AM

Also, weddings are funny emotional times, It may be that for a moment it all washed over him, and he was genuinely feeling those things at that time, even if that seems inconsistent. I suspect this wasn't entirely the case, but it may have been a little, and may have been enogh to convince those around that he was genuine. Perhaps the thing that was most genuine about that scene is that in honesty its probably what most of us would do for one reason or another.

Matt

#18 Alvy

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Posted 26 August 2004 - 04:47 PM

I just saw this film again.

I loved it. I was very disappointed that my elderly aunt, who is staying with us at the moment and was really looking forward to the film, didn't enjoy it much. She kept commenting on how slow it was, and then kind of dismissed it as a waste of time when it was over. I think she was expecting something more along the lines of As Good as It Gets or Something's Gotta Give.

I wonder what everyone else thought of the frequent visual metaphors, especially in the first half of the film? It seemed almost every other shot was a metaphor for the emptiness of Schmidt's existence (a vacuum cleaner, an empty corridor, a barren landscape etc). Was that justified, or was it overdone and pretentious?

I loved the ambiguity, although I found the ending much less ambiguous than I did when we last discussed this on the old Novogate board. I seem to recall a lot of folk argued the letter was insincere; watching it again, I think the director did everything he could to convince us it was genuine.

Certainly one of Nicholson's great performances, too.

#19 Alvy

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Posted 26 August 2004 - 04:55 PM

Good grief, you really hated this one, Jeffrey...! blink.gif

#20 Overstreet

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Posted 26 August 2004 - 04:56 PM

QUOTE
I wonder what everyone else thought of the frequent visual metaphors, especially in the first half of the film? It seemed almost every other shot was a metaphor for the emptiness of Schmidt's existence (a vacuum cleaner, an empty corridor, a barren landscape etc). Was that justified, or was it overdone and pretentious?


Granted, I've only seen it once, but the first time through, I was weary of the obvious visual metaphors of his empty life just a few minutes into the film. They went beyond suggesting something about him, belaboring the point instead.

But I'm not going to be your best friend when it comes to reminiscing about this film, so, my apologies. It's on my list of "someday, given the opportunity, I need to re-think this again, as some respectable friends of mine love it" movies.