Metascore
85

Universal acclaim - based on 40 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 34 out of 40
  2. Negative: 0 out of 40
  1. 88
    About Schmidt is billed as a comedy. It is funny to the degree that Nicholson is funny playing Schmidt, and funny in terms of some of his adventures, but at bottom it is tragic.
  2. 75
    I recommend the movie both for Nicholson's performance and for the opportunity to spend some time with the kind of man that we often meet in real life, but rarely see on screen.
  3. 75
    A must-see for Nicholson's mesmerizing performance, which would probably hold interest even if the sound were turned off.
  4. 100
    It is also Nicholson at his bravest and riskiest. By banking his fires and staying alert to the smallest details, he delivers a monumental performance that blasts your expectations and batters your heart.
  5. A seriously good movie, a challenge to viewers, a rebuke of the way many Americans live their lives.
  6. It’s the difference between artistry and knowingness. About Schmidt doesn’t bring us deeply into the lives of its people because it’s too busy trying to feel superior to them.
  7. Nicholson makes the movie so poignant that it's hard to resist, but I wonder if Payne and Taylor are rejecting the skeptical attitudes of their other films to become more popular, hoping a softer emotional tone will help this picture win the Oscars that have eluded their more tough-minded works.
  8. What makes this exquisitely observed slice of American screen realism transcend itself is finally its moral sensibility.
  9. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    75
    How you feel about About Schmidt may depend in large part on how you feel About Jack.
  10. The power of this great movie -- part comedy, part tragedy, part satire, mostly masterpiece -- is in the details.
  11. This ambitious, entertaining movie, which showed at film festivals earlier this year, has been hailed in some quarters as a masterpiece worthy of Arthur Miller's Willy Loman or Sinclair Lewis's George Babbitt. Yet its social comments are stained by condescension, and its uplift is sustained by sentimentality that Mr. Nicholson's prickly Everyman can't conceal.
  12. A quiet, heart-rending masterpiece, one with an actor's turn that people will remember, and rediscover, eons into the future.
  13. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    60
    The writing is sharp and often blithely cynical, although not above using a shooting star to put a lump in the throat. The tone, however, is at times dangerously uncertain.
  14. 100
    What gives About Schmidt its ultimate boost, what pushes it into the stirring heavens is Nicholson, who produces the most understated -– and one of the most powerful –- performances of his career.
  15. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    60
    Payne's movie is flat, depressed, and at times -- given this director's talent -- disappointingly curdled; it needs every quivering molecule of Nicholson's repressed rage to keep it alive and humming.
  16. 100
    Ever the satirist, Payne mines humor from his characters, be it Randall's cockeyed pyramid-scheme ideas or the banality of a ridiculous wedding toast.
  17. A comedy poised on the knife's edge of tragedy, the film is a gutsy, truthful, deeply rooted vision of contemporary American life, scaled to the size of an ordinary man. It's a humanist triumph strip-mined of bathos and confirmation that, after directing just three features, Payne has become the most gifted comic social satirist to hit our movies since Preston Sturges.
  18. 90
    Payne, the great satirist behind "Citizen Ruth" and "Election," loves to populate his films with throwaway details, which in About Schmidt accumulate into a portrait of Midwestern life that's almost chilling in its exactitude.
  19. Much more deserving of plaudits is the secondary cast--Hope Davis as Schmidt's resentful daughter, Dermot Mulroney as the waterbed salesman she's engaged to, and, above all, Kathy Bates in a hilarious turn as the latter's New Age mother.
  20. As sad and poignant and potentially hopeful as it is amusing. The movie is our story as much as it is Schmidt's, no matter if it's viewed as a self-reflection or cautionary tale
  21. A dark comedy that's as emotionally honest as any picture of 2002.
  22. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    80
    Films exist for different reasons, and the indisputable raison d'etre for About Schmidt is to showcase Jack Nicholson giving a master class in the art of screen acting.
  23. 91
    We laugh, yes, but we're touched, too, a delicate balance that the film manages again and again, right through to its bittersweet conclusion.
  24. This is a superb film and one of Nicholson's great performances, tamped down but magnetic.
  25. The movie isn't just about Schmidt as a personality, it's a portrait of his world, and Payne and co-writer Taylor show a rare compassion for the superficially comfortable.
  26. There's still nothing quite as thrilling on the screen as the spectacle of an icon movie star in a perfectly tailored role.
  27. 50
    Starts out as a barbed, poignant little movie and turns into an excruciating slow-motion car wreck.
  28. Payne achieves an impressive control over the look and tone, so that, melancholy as the movie is, it comes off as both comedy and comment on the human condition.
  29. 80
    One may not realize how truly sad this movie is until the forlorn final moments, when Payne resists an inspirational closer, and, with exquisite tact, averts his eyes.
  30. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    88
    Nicholson has at least three magnificent moments in Hour 2. The best is a wedding toast that comes after another that will painfully remind you of every banal wedding toast you've ever heard.
  31. 100
    Payne is a comic miniaturist, who works in a small compass, as if through a magnifying glass with tweezers.
  32. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    100
    This powerfully contained, painfully funny performance has to rank with the greatest work Nicholson's ever done -- This road movie gives you emotional whiplash, and you’ll be glad you went along for the ride.
  33. 70
    The pathos of About Schmidt -- of the careful, Chekhovian work that it could have been --gradually slides away. [16 December 2002, p. 106]
  34. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    100
    Sublime and sorrowful movie.
  35. Stands as a poignant marker in the career of a major artist.
  36. 100
    What makes About Schmidt so extraordinary is how ordinary its tale is; it's a gray picture about gray people looking for some kind of meaning in their gray lives.
  37. 40
    Had Payne the grace or generosity to present the vulgarity and naiveté and tackiness of these characters as something vital and endearing and delightful, the movie might have been explosively funny.
  38. 50
    The truth is About Schmidt offers only the sporadic laugh, the less frequent original cultural insight and, at best, a craftsmanlike performance from its aging headliner. The truth is there are long stretches in the picture that are unequivocally dull.
  39. 100
    The bleakness and poignancy are inescapable in About Schmidt, a character study that has the emotional richness of the great Italian and Eastern European films of the 1960s, in which humor and pathos rode up and down on the seesaw together.
  40. Reviewed by: Darrin Keene
    90
    This is where Payne shines. Schmidt’s Winnebago journey through America’s heartland is more like a personal voyage into his Heart of Darkness.
User Score
6.5

Generally favorable reviews- based on 166 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 48 out of 85
  2. Negative: 32 out of 85
  1. Jun 25, 2012
    10
    Really goodReally good . Full Review »
  2. Aug 12, 2014
    9
    Of retirement, of loss, of soul-searching. Of life. Alexander Payne creates the most natural films films can produce. This, is what shouldOf retirement, of loss, of soul-searching. Of life. Alexander Payne creates the most natural films films can produce. This, is what should have been Jack Nicholson's most deserving Oscar. He pulls himself away from his cocky, intimidating and sometimes arrogant charm that he has added to so many of his movies, and has given us a truly human role: a man with limits, faults, and weakness'. Kathy Bates makes you want to piss your pants, so to speak. The film is great. Jack Nicholson: so amazing it's surreal. Full Review »
  3. Jan 17, 2014
    9
    I loved seeing this at the theatres when it was released. At the time I hadn't seen anything by Alexander Payne, but made a mental note thatI loved seeing this at the theatres when it was released. At the time I hadn't seen anything by Alexander Payne, but made a mental note that I'd keep an eye on his work, and with good reason. Nicholson was excellent as I had come to expect, the writing was exemplary, Bates was hilarious and the ending was very poignant: I was quite surprised it didn't get any Oscars, though it achieved other merits. Full Review »