October 04, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

About Schmidt

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
124 minutes
Limited Release Date
12/13/02
performer
Jack Nicholson, Kathy Bates, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, June Squibb
director
Alexander Payne
distributor
New Line Cinema
author
Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
genre
Drama

Louis Begley has a flair for lies. About Schmidt, his fourth novel, details the lies that aging WASP attorney Albert Schmidt tells himself after his wife dies: lies about why he doesn’t like his daughter’s Jewish fiance, lies about his shortened law career, lies about the 20-year-old Puerto Rican waitress who may or may not be flirting with him. The book’s cultivated, assured tone makes its flashes of bitterness and anger all the more striking. There’s an especially sharp passage between Schmidt and his daughter’s future mother-in-law, an analyst who almost literally has him on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner. As a whole, About Schmidt is a fine, witty work, though it is marred at the end by a convergence of story lines that’s both forced and unsatisfying. B

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