Sunday, September 22, 2002

This enjoyable profile of Jack Nicholson in Today's Times sure makes one wonder about just what kind of liberties were taken with his new movie, About Schmidt, based on Louis Begley's novel. It is all but unrecognizable from the description.

Here's how I described the book in an old review:

In his sixties, retired from the prestigious Manhattan law firm of Wood & King, recently widowed from his beloved Mary, Albert Schmidt -- ÒSchmidtieÓ to those he allows to get close to him -- is petty, selfish and anti-Semitic. It is this last trait that surfaces when his only daughter, Charlotte, becomes engaged to Jon Riker, a rising young star at SchmidtÕs old firm. Schmidt recommended him for the position, but never dreamed heÕd have to make him -- and his family, both parents psychoanalysts -- part of his life.

The bright star on SchmidtÕs own approaching horizon is Carrie Gorchuck, the beautiful 20-year-old Puerto Rican waitress who serves him everyday at his favorite restaurant, and eventually starts sharing his bed. While money, class and charm are part of SchmidtÕs appeal, there is also genuine love between him and Carrie, and all the consequent feverish desire and jealousy. Standing between Schmidt and his young love is her sexual history, both with Bryan, an occasionally drug-addled old boyfriend, and Mr. Wilson, the high school teacher who got to her first, and with whom Schmidt has several confrontations that ultimately turn catastrophic.

Here's this from the Times description:

The film, a dark comedy directed by Alexander Payne, stars Mr. Nicholson as a widowed Omaha insurance actuary who is forced to retire at 66 and decides to hit the road in a motor home. It's a movie in which Mr. Nicholson's long and memorable career comes full circle.

...As Warren Schmidt, Mr. Nicholson cruises the same flat, empty highways. But he is now gray and paunchy, grimly steering an unwieldy Winnebago on a futile journey to make sense of his past. After visiting his childhood haunts, he travels to the wedding of his daughter, played by Hope Davis, who is marrying a waterbed salesman (Dermot Mulroney) Schmidt thinks is beneath her. Along the way he writes soul-searching letters to an illiterate 6-year-old Tanzanian orphan named Ndugu whom he has "adopted" through a TV charity.

The movie, loosely based on the 1996 novel by Louis Begley, opens nationwide in December.

As you can tell, "loosely" is an extraordinary understatement. Kinda makes you wonder why they didn't just toss the book aside and call the movie something else.

No comments: