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About Schmidt is a dry, subtle comedy about a newly retired Vice President of a highly renowned insurance company. Warren Schmidt doesnt adjust to retired life well and living in Omaha, Nebraska doesnt help. Helen, his wife of forty-two years tries to cheer him up by reminding him of their plans to travel America I their RV. But Schmidt is apathetic. He sees a commercial for a children foundation and begins sponsoring a child in Tanzania named Ndugu. The story is narrated through letters to this boy. His wife suddenly dies of a blood clot in her brain. While going through her old things and reminiscing, he finds old letters of an affair she had thirty years ago with a colleague and close friend. After a couple of weeks of sloth, he decides to surprise his only daughter, Jeanie, by taking a road trip to Denver, Colorado before her wedding to water bed salesman, Randall. Jeanie refuses him and tells him not to come. Warren decides to visit
old places such as his childhood home and his alma matter in Kansas. He meets a couple and has positive interaction with them, but ruins it when he tries to kiss Vicky, a married woman. It is later that night, while on the road, he reflects and forgives his wife infidelity. He realizes his failure as a good husband and races to save his daughter from making the same mistake. He tries to stop her but she answers by saying he will support her or leave. He attends the wedding and goes home, pondering what good in the world he has done. Upon arrival at home, he finds his first letter from Ndugu teacher telling him all about the boy. It is enclosed with a painting of Warren and Ndugu and he weeps, realizing the good he done.
The main character, Warren is played by Jack Nicholson. Warren is an emotionally absent, sixty-six year old man who is widowed during the movie. He is serious, quiet, and socially awkward. Jeanie is his only daughter. She is probably in her thirties. She marries Randall in the movie. She is somewhat like her father but is responsible and caring like her mother. Her relationship with her dad is strained and she accuses him of never being interested in her life. He tries to be a stern father but she is strong and lets him know she is in charge of her own life and she will make her own decisions. Helen dies in the beginning of the movie, but her personality is introduced. She is sweet, caring, and tidy. While she is alive, Warren expresses his annoyances from the way she sits, to her little collections. He writes, œWho is this old woman living in my house? Randall is what some might call a hick. But he is kind and emotionally aware. He is a bit ob
livious to social cues, though. Warren does not approve of his engagement and marriage to Jeanie.
The biggest communication problem portrayed in the movie is also a main component of the plot. Schmidt relationship with his daughter Jeanie is full of communication problems on both sides. First, Schmidt doesnt know how to communicate his feelings to his daughter without hurting her. This is evident in the scene when he and his wife call to speak with Jeanie and her fiance Randy. Instead of talking to Jeanie about how he feels about the engagement, he pretends everything is fine. The frustration and anger of this repression often comes out in his letters to a starving child he is sponsoring. He feels as if Randy is replacing him in his older daughter life. Because Schmidt keeps all of these emotions inside, he is seen as a cold person and refrains from having the necessary personal relationships one needs. He lack of feeling is extremely apparent when his wife dies. He is avoidant and never picks up on social cues in any con
versation, as when Randy mother tries to seduce him in a hot tub and when he mistakes a fellow camper empathy for romance.
Some communication can help problems while others can only escalate them, as in the case of Warren Schmidt and his lack of emotion and personal relationships. Because of his difficulties, he is lonely and depressed and lets his daughter take advantage of him. The one time that he decided to tell his daughter about his disapproval of the wedding he gets stern and asks to speak to her. After a minute she gives in and talks with her father. He expresses his concerns, though not very well. Instead of opening up a dialog, this created a problem and Jeanie became defensive. This only worsened the fragile relationship between father and daughter.
Another problem of the movie is that of the character Randall. He is emotional and a happy guy. But he lacks empathy and tack. Often he would say something to offend Schmidt or cause him to be irritated. He rarely noticed and never seemed to care about the damage that was done between all the characters in the story. He Didnt know how to handle social cues and couldnt read Schmidt uncomfortable body language.
Although Randall had trouble communicating with Schmidt because of a personality clash, he was a great communicator with his future wife. This was evident during a fight the couple had. After they had a chance to cool off, Randall went to Jeanie and talked calmly and also listened well. Randall tried to calm Jeanie fears about the wedding and her relationship with her father. The two of them worked through the problem and got married the next day.
Warren Schmidt apathetic nature and his daughter lack of understanding or ability to penetrate that exterior is much like a communication battle I have in one of my own relationships. My partner is very calm and keeps to himself so it is difficult for me to decipher what he needs or wants. Often I feel as if he is cold and I am not understanding. This leads to defensiveness and conflict. But unlike Schmidt and Jeanie, my partner and I often resolve our problems after a cooling off period and have learned to compromise. Watching the problems in the movie only made it more important for us to keep calm and discuss problems in a pragmatic way.