01-21-2003, 01:32 PM
Back in his familiar Midwest, after tackling such life-and-death issues as abortion in Citizen Ruth and high school politics in Election, Alexander Payne wanders through the flat landscapes as he follows an ordinary manís journey of self discovery. The directorís latest, About Schmidt takes its time to develop as it introduces us to Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson), who at 66 is retiring from a lifetime of service as an actuary, is coping with his wifeís sudden death and has to stomach his only daughterís marriage to a halfwit. Schmidtís excellent adventure aboard his 35-foot motor home climaxes in an impassioned attempt to stop the wedding after meeting the groomís boorish family. Kathy Bates is a hoot as the free-spirited mother-in-law, but this is all about Jack. His understated performance is heartbreaking as he embraces his physical maturity to solidify the characterís distress. His crossroads happen to be Midwestern in kind, but Payneís sharp comedy reaches beyond the plains.