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Review - About Schmidt

by Zettel 

Posted: 08 July 2004
Word Count: 843
Summary: The behind the scenes story.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

The late Pauline Kael - one of the consistently best writers on movies for over 30 years and the feistiest, had a pet hate: meretricious movies cynically calculated in conception and performance to manipulate easy emotion and worse, to plug into the worthy sentimentality characteristic of the Oscar Academy members.
Ms Kael invetiably came to mind when I saw 'About Schmidt'. A regular review of this film would be as boring and depressing as the movie itself. But something needed saying. So I tried something different. I won't take up your time with another review but I thought you might find this 'left field' effort a bit of fun and perhaps diverting.
Authenticity demands a couple of swear words in this - nothing over the top I hope - but just in case anyone has particular sensibilities in this direction. I ask you to imagine the process leading up to the casting and development of this movie. Even if you haven't seen it (lucky you) you may perhaps get the gist.

About Schmidt

(Phone rings)
“Uh Huh”
“Have you read the script?”
“Lighten up Harv. Heavy night”
“No Jack…Schmidt, Schmidt”
“Old guy..pathetic..right?”
“Well, sort of.”
“Harv….I should do this movie….why?”
“Quick shoot, 5 mil, and an Oscar.”
“You don’t want it.”
“Why not?”
“It won’t make any money.”
“Why not?”
“Cos it’s depressing as hell. And word gets around.”
“Am I missing something here Harv?”
“Oscar Jack. The old Golden Baldie.”
“Old guy’s a retired Actuary.. right?”
“What’s an Actuary Harv?”
“Well Jack – he’s sort of like an Accountant who found accountancy too exciting.”
“Harv… you have to help me here. I make this depressing as hell movie, about a pathetic, old….exceptionally boring guy and they give me an Oscar? How come?”
“Genius Jack. Your acting genius. Think…’As Good As It Gets’ without the humour; think…’The Straight Story’ without that goddam tractor. It’s got everything Jack…pain, pathos, tragedy; and courageous Jack Nicholson acting old and ugly. It’s a shoe-in. The Academy and the Indie audience love that kinda shit. C’mon…whaddya think?”
“Inspirational Harv. Any other plusses?”
“Well you get to share a Jacuzzi with a naked Kathy Bates...(silence)….Jack? Jack, don’t hang up on me. Jack? You still there?”
“Thinkin’ Harv. Letting my hormones run riot.”
“Aw c’mon Jack. Think of it as a challenge.”
“Harv…at the moment, getting outta bed’s a challenge. This movie, in contrast, sounds like a crock of shit.”
“Trust me Jack. Another Oscar’ll double your fee and set up the lifetime achievement award.”
“Any kids in this movie Harv?” I smell a kid somewhere. You know I don’t do kids.”
“It’s beautiful Jack. You adopt this African kid by post for $25 bucks a month. But…get this Jack ….you never have to meet him. You just voice-over letters to him. Good opportunity for that great voice of yours Jack. We may shoot a scene of you reading to a kid just for marketing…but we won’t put it in the movie. And Jack…you haven’t heard the best yet.”
“Go on Harv…hit me.”
“You get to cry Jack.”
“Harv…have you gone fucking mad?”
“Jack. Jack…listen. See the headlines….’Nicholson cries’.
“Sounds like a fucking Barbie Doll ad Harv.”
“Jack, picture it. Oscar night. Nicole picks up hers after a clip showing her nudging the dead sparrow with that bloody wonderful nose….and then you…hard man Nicholson….full close up….your eyes well up….and one or two tears roll down your cheeks cos a $25 a month, 6-year-old African kid sent you a drawing. Genius Jack. Ingemar eat your heart out.”
“Johanssen right? Swedish heavyweight champ in the 60’s?”
“Aw c’mon Jack…Bergman…Ingemar Bergman.
“You got a dictionary Harv?”
“Look up ‘irony’ – starts with an ‘i’.
“Yes Harv?”
“How do you feel about a limp?”
“A limp what Harv?”
“Well we were thinking about maybe a stroke or a hip replacement after your wife dies.”
“Forget it Harv….I’ll just shuffle a lot, like old guys do.”
“That’s cool Jack.”
“Jack… word’s out they’re casting Saddam Hussein for a major project. You up for it?”
“Can I do it straight?”
“Christ! Is Saddam gay?”
“No Harv…..can I play him as he is?”
“How is he Jack?”
“Shitting himself at the moment I should think….Who’s up for Bush?”
“Jim Carey’s in the frame”
“Yes Jack?”
“As Saddam…..would I have to lose?”
“That’s tricky Jack……we may have to negotiate.”
“Yes Jack?”
“Did you catch this Brit guy Ali G on HBO last night? Christ, he was funny”
“Jack, don’t say anything to anyone about liking that guy. The press crucified him today.”
“Well he is Jewish Harv.”
“Sorry Jack but I have to tell you, he was really
tasteless; jokes about 9/11…is nothing sacred?”
“Yes Jack?”
“The i’s come after ‘h’ in the dictionary”……bye.”

Inside Track: to achieve the dramatic emotional climax in ‘ About Schmidt’ – Jack Nicholson crying on camera – after many failed attempts, they hit on the idea of showing Nicholson the film from the beginning……worked a dream. Now that’s genius.


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Comments by other Members

Jim Beard at 12:47 on 09 July 2004  Report this post

This is a superb piece. I really enjoyed reading it and could picture Nicholson on the phone. I havn't seen the film but thank's for the tip off.

All the best


Richard Brown at 07:26 on 13 July 2004  Report this post
This is fabulous! It should be in the humour group as well! Clever, clever stuff, says more than any dull review. (I know that I would hate the film!) Zettel, you've got to be a professional writer. You're doing an 'innocent eye' experiment. You're wondering; 'Will anybody recognise me?' Am I right? No? Yes? Do I win the prize?

eyeball at 08:18 on 13 July 2004  Report this post
Send this to Empire mag. If they don't fire Angie Errigo and give you her job, I'll cancel my subscription.

Fav lines:
“Well Jack – he’s sort of like an Accountant who found accountancy too exciting.”

“Well you get to share a Jacuzzi with a naked Kathy Bates...(silence)….Jack? Jack, don’t hang up on me. Jack? You still there?”
“Thinkin’ Harv. Letting my hormones run riot.”

“How do you feel about a limp?”
“A limp what Harv?”

And the whole Saddam movie.


Noodles at 10:10 on 13 July 2004  Report this post

This is so fantastic. Sorry to gush, but it is. Superbly written and spot on. Really superb dialogue. And I agree 100%. For me, About Schmidt (sic) has got to be one of the most overrated, contrived films ever.

Seconded: please send it to Empire, send it to Jack, send it anywhere, but send it.



Zettel at 20:58 on 13 July 2004  Report this post
Guys (including Sharon of course), you have made my day. It is a scary business trying to make people smile. Seems like it worked and I am so encouraged by the feedback.

Richard: any prize you want as it is such a compliment. However you are wrong: I've had one poem (with Ver Poets) and a few letters in the national press 'published' but that's it. But I am enjoying writing so much and am trying to develop all the skills I can to extend this. Positive feedback of this kind is so encouraging. Thanks again folks.

PS there's nothing secretive about the Zettel - just a way of keeping all comments objective.



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