About Schmidt is a film I probably never would have seen if it had not been strongly recommended by a coworker. American films of the past decade do not rank high on my list of things to see, and the story of a retired man driving around the country revisiting his past while doing some soul searching sounds like something that has already been covered well enough before, namely in Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry.
But I am glad I did watch this. Although it not exactly a new favorite, I like everything about this this film. Probably because everything has an almost Scandinavian level of subtlety in its storytelling. Everything is restrained—the pale blue color scheme, the pacing, the wonderful wandering piano score. Even Jack Nicholson, who is usually all over the road in his acting, delivers a performance that is quiet and restrained. It is his least typical performance of his career, and maybe one of his best. He is playing a man without qualities, and so there is very little to hang his performance on, but Nicholson manages to carry the film. I stopped even wondering if Schmidt was going to be able to stop the wedding of his daughter to a waterbed salesman, as he wants to do, and I just enjoyed Nicholson’s performance.