Director: Alexander Payne
Year Released: 2002
One of the reasons why I haven't liked a single one of Payne's films (to date) – this includes Citizen Ruth and Election – is the apparent contempt he has for his characters. Jack Nicholson's impotent/emasculated character is like Matthew Broderick's character in Election, a wasted sad sack/failure who I'm not sure if I'm supposed to dislike, laugh at or 'learn from.' There's an uneasy blend of comedy (to give it credit, some scenes are very amusing) and drama, often one right after the other – whenever the picture approaches what can be considered a 'poignant moment,' Payne undermines the serious intentions by making a joke of it. I'm not sure how we're supposed to view Schmidt himself: his Letters to Ndugu/interior monologues reflect deep-seeded hostility (compare to Adam Sandler's Frequent Flyer mission in Punch-Drunk Love and his character's repressed anger) but at the same time his intentions are pathetic and unrealistic, making the final scene all the more ridiculous (aren't those things a scam?). The gratuitous inclusion of Kathy Bates' nude scene belongs in a Farrelly Brothers movie and has no place here.