catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 1, Num 8 :: 2002.12.20 — 2003.01.02


About Schmidt--about us?

Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) is the ordinary guy. Retiring from his actuary position at The World Insurance Company at the age of 66, Schmidt faces the torment of finding himself at a crossroads in his life. Being replaced by a younger college graduate, Schmidt wrestles with the notions of whether or not his work life has had any purpose. Whilst applauded by his former colleagues, he remains pathetically distant and unreachable. Add to this the marriage of his daughter, Jeannie (Hope Davis), into a family of spiritualistic, free-spirited buffoons and the sudden death of Helen (June Squibb), his wife of 42 years, and you have a stage set for loneliness and disaster.

Schmidt's revelation comes when, along with a $22 check, he sends along his observations of the world around him (as only a lonely, unlovable, finicky, stubborn and tired man could see) to Ndugu Umbo, a 6-year-old Tanzanian child whom he sponsors through the Reach The Children program. Perhaps for the first time in his life Schmidt begins to see himself for who he truly is and what a mediocre life he has lived. It is through these observations that Schmidt decides to make it his mission to keep his only daughter from making the same mistake of mediocrity by marrying Randall Hertzel (Dermot Mulroney).

Darkly comical in its approach, About Schmidt deals with the complexity of family dynamics and the reality of pain due to personal loss and a lifetime of things never said.

After viewing the movie, I was a bit disturbed and depressed at how a man could be so out of touch with those closest to him. His journey is dark and dismal yet is the repercussion of his own self-involvedness. After taking a few days to ponder the movie, I realized that this could easily be anyone in our society. We are so culturally pushed to drive ourselves in our professions, and gauge ourselves by our work performance that we easily lose sight of and contact with those around us. After a lifetime of successful insurance work, Schmidt realizes that he has been focusing on the wrong thing his whole life. He lives with a woman he doesn't know and has a daughter who has no need of him. This is the ultimate ramification of a society bent on judging ourselves by what we do and prioritizing ambition over family.

The questions this movie prompts us to ask of ourselves are, what have I done of value in my life? Whom have I influenced and have I made a difference? Is there time to change?

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