Sunday, 28 November 2010

About Schmidt (2002)[* * * *]

This is an interesting movie for any middle aged person to see. Its a change-of-life story.

Schmidt is newly retired from his job as vice-president in a company who sees his life with new eyes.

One day watching a tv ad for a charity, he begins to write to an african boy with a cheque to support his education. His letters are about his new retired life.

He comes from a typical US married man background of having nothing to live for except his work. His wife seems like a stranger to him, but by the time he realises it, she dies.

Now he realises he can't take care of himself and his home, and his daughter won't stay to help because she has her own commitments. He decides to move up to join her but she doesn't want him to come until the day before her wedding.

Having time on his hands, he decides to sightsee. The trip to see his daughter married to a nincompoop in a weird, though very average american, family is hilarious and very real. His daughter wants him to pay for the wedding, her husband wants him to invest in some scheme - he realises everyone only saw him as a provider but didn't want to know him. His attempts to stop the wedding, and finally, his acceptance that it is beyond his ability as a marginal figure in their lives is quite moving.

The one thing I admire about these rare american filmmakers is their ability to see their own culture as being ... strange, if poignant, and laughing at it visually. He returns home thinking about what he'd achieved in his life and realises it was meaningless - until he receives a letter from his african charity with a picture drawn by the 6 yr old child, Ndugu. In his entire life, the only thing that makes his life meaningful is a whimsical charity of 22 dollars/month where someone returns affection when he gave willingly.

It touched me because looking at the man as a provider often goes hand in hand with manipulating him by withholding affection. A very common affliction in arranged marriages.

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