Nicholson generating Oscar buzz in 'Schmidt'


Jack Nicholson stars in "About Schmidt" opening Friday in Gainesville.

New Line Cinema
Published: Wednesday, January 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 31, 2002 at 10:33 p.m.

Jack Nicholson embarks on a voyage of self-discovery in a Winnebago in the dark comedy "About Schmidt," opening Friday at Royal Park.

Already generating significant Oscar buzz, Nicholson stars as Warren Schmidt, a retired actuary for Woodmen of the World Insurance Co. who loses his wife and must save his daughter from marrying a mullet-wearing waterbed salesman named Randall.

The film opened weeks ago to rave reviews in Los Angeles and New York.

Written and directed by Alexander Payne, whose savage ''Election'' was a sleeper hit three years ago, "About Schmidt" paints a satirical picture of a vacant man. Schmidt quietly awaits retirement and then quietly endures his retirement party.

Retirement itself is merely a seat in front of the television.

Then the death of his wife (June Squibb) shatters his routine, so Schmidt decides to board the Winnebago, cross the country and stop the wedding of his daughter (Hope Davis).

Critics are embracing Nicholson's understated performance as Schmidt. Gone from this film are the trademark trappings of Jack - sneers, arched eyebrows, drenched sarcasm. The movie is rated R for profanity and brief nudity.

Another bleak tale of human discovery opens at the Hippodrome Cinema on Friday. "The Slaughter Rule" is set against the gray Montana winter where smaller high schools play six-man football. The film centers on the relationship between troubled high school quarterback Roy Chutney (Ryan Gosling) and exiled Texas coach Gideon Ferguson (David Morse) in a compelling drama that has been a critical darling since premiering at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.

"The Slaughter Rule" won the International Film Critics Award for best feature film at the Stockholm International Film Festival.

This movie is not rated.

Dave Schlenker can be reached at 374-5045 or scene@gvillesun.com.

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