review by Jon Waterman
About Plot: Warren Schmidt just retired. Actually, he didn’t
choose to be, it was kinda forced on him. He’d much rather
work at the office than sit around at home trying to find uses for himself.
More than that, he’d much rather not have to deal with that Winnebago
his wife, Helen, made him buy. One day, while out running errands,
Helen passes. Now, as an excuse to get out of the house, he travels
to see his daughter and looks to make himself whole again.
About Story: The road trip is told mostly through dialogue and interaction,
but occasionally we lapse into narration. This voice-over is more
excusable than some, because what’s being said is vital to understanding
the character and couldn’t be expressed another way. Also,
it takes the form of letters. Warren (Jack Nicholson) sponsors a
young boy from an under-privileged country; the result of a retirement
induced TV watching marathon. He befriends Ndugu like no other person
in his life and tells him all about his misadventures and the feelings
he keeps hidden from the world. Of course, the letters, just like
his social interactions, turn to lies in order to make himself look better.
What we witness is a near-end life crisis. Warren goes on the road
to do some soul searching, while at the same time looking to put himself
back into the life of his daughter, Jeannie (Hope Davis). Really,
he just wants to feel important, needed, and useful. Oh, and attention.
He wants attention.
About Acting: Nicholson is simply astounding. His facial expressions
and reactions speak much louder than his words ever could. The self-hatred
and confusion is clear and heart-breaking to watch. However, a few
moments later, he uses the same emotional cues to make the audience laugh.
Every last actor settles for nothing less than great. From Kathy
Bates as the groom’s extremely extroverted ex-hippie mother to Matt
Winston as the overly enthusiastic weasel-y charming man that takes over
Warren’s job. From the unrecognizable Dermot Mulroney as the
over ambitious, under qualified, strange looking Randall, Warren’s
future son-in-law, to June Squibb as the annoyingly cheery wife who also
keeps Warren grounded. All of them execute the lines perfectly and
hit the comic timing and tone more efficiently than most professional
About Done?: Yes. I am. We got magnificent acting, fantastic
storytelling and the thing looks pretty nice, too. The cinematography
(James Glennon) is crisp, yet muggy, but in a good way. I could
go for a different score (by Rolfe Kent). This one just didn’t
strike the right chords (so to speak). The film is an interesting
and quite funny trip full of interesting and quirky characters that aren’t
over-the-top. However, it’s a long and only slightly curvy
road and I wouldn’t really want to take the voyage again.
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