Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

About Schmidt (2002)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

About Schmidt (2002)

In director Alexander Payne's existential character study and nihilistic black comedy about a retired man seeking to find meaning:

  • 66 year-old Warren Schmidt (Oscar-nominated Jack Nicholson) was a recently-retired Omaha, Nebraska insurance actuary who viewed his entire life as disappointing - with the opening shot of Schmidt in his barren, packed-up Woodmen Insurance office waiting on his last day for 5 PM to approach before his farewell retirement dinner
  • he engaged in correspondence with his "Childreach" adoptee (delivered in voice-over soliloquies "Dear Ndugu...") - an uncomprehending Tanzanian six year-old orphan named Ndugu Umbo, sharing his feelings about his lack of accomplishments: ("...When I was a kid, I used to think that maybe I was special, that somehow Destiny would tap me to be a great man..."), and his suppressed anger about his long-time supportive, but homely and overweight wife Helen (June Squibb) after 42 years of marriage ("Who is this old woman who lives in my house?")
  • he expressed loathing for his prospective future son-in-law - "nincompoop" waterbed salesman Randall Hertzel (Dermot Mulroney): ("This guy’s just not up to snuff, if you ask me. I mean, not for my little girl...")
  • Warren discovered his wife dead in the kitchen due to a stroke, and decided to take a road trip in an oversized Adventurer R.V. to Denver to visit his only child - mousy daughter Jeannie (Hope Davis)
  • Warren delivered a regretful prayer atop his RV - lit by candles - on a starry night to his deceased wife: ("Helen? What did you really think of me, deep in your heart? Was I really the man you wanted to be with? Was I? Or were you disappointed and too nice to show it?")
  • he met uninhibited, earthy flirtatious divorcee (and the mother of the groom-to-be) Roberta Hertzel (Oscar-nominated Kathy Bates) - during an infamous nude hot-tub scene with the unwilling Schmidt, she hopped out of the tub when she proposed: ("Here we are, a divorcee and a widower. Sounds like a perfect match to me")
Hot-Tubbing with Roberta
  • during the brilliant reception scene following the wedding of his only daughter Jeannine (Hope Davis) to a "nincompoop" waterbed salesman named Randall (Dermot Mulroney), Warren delivered a speech and found some self-healing and consolation: ("Thank you, to you, Randall, for taking such good care of my daughter especially recently with our loss. Ever since I arrived here a couple of days ago, I have so enjoyed getting to know Jeannie's new family...Everybody else, terrific people. Terrific. And in conclusion, I just want to say on this special day, this very special day, that I am very pleased")
  • he wrote a despairing last letter to Ndugu after returning home from the Denver wedding: ("I know we're all pretty small in the big scheme of things and I suppose the most you can hope for is to make some kind of difference. But what kind of difference have I made? What in the world is better because of me?...I am weak and I am a failure. There's just no getting around it. Relatively soon, I will die. Maybe in twenty years, maybe tomorrow. It doesn't matter. Once I am dead and everyone who knew me dies, too, it will be as though I never even existed. What difference has my life made to anyone? None that I can think of. None at all")
  • and in the climactic catharsis when Warren received his first letter back from Ndugu's missionary mother superior at the orphanage with a drawing of Warren and Ndugu holding hands, there was a closing close-up shot of a teary-eyed, elated Warren

Warren's Last Day in Office

Warren's Prayer Atop RV

Wedding Reception Speech

Warren's Reaction to Letter from Adoptee


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