11 January 2006

about schmidt



you ever had that? i had that -- still have it -- that feeling all day where you wake up and you feel like shit, and all day you slouch around, that little voice in your head telling you you are a piece of shit, you are unlovable, your life doesn't matter.

i took an acting class a few years ago, and the teacher talked about how as an actor you need to experience an emotion, then file it away so that you can use it. after feeling something, pause and say to yourself, "ok, that's how that feels. remember it." so i was thinking about how i felt so lonely today (as biggie smalls said in an interview, "so lonely you're talking to yourself"), about how when you are down you feel like you are the only person in the world who feels that way, that you don't matter or that your life hasn't affected anyone in any positive manner.

(as a side note, that's pretty much what "it's a wonderful life" is about, which i wrote about last month. great movie, but what if you don't have a guardian angel to tell you you're worthwhile?)

so i'm thinking about these feelings of being worthless and lonely and negative, and i'm trying to convince myself that this too shall pass, and trying to get by them by doing with writing what my acting teacher told me -- file this away. what could i write about that would include these feelings? how could i best communicate them?

and the first thing that came to me was the realization that i'd already seen it done, and within the last few years. the movie is "about schmidt".

i was talking to rob at a show some many months ago about alexander payne and the theory that some have that he's condescending to his characters. and sure, he pokes fun. but its knowing fun. he revels in their foibles the same way a good friend, one who knows you well, can call you out on acting like a jackass or saying something dumb. i don't think he judges his characters, but he does put them in situations that most other commercial filmmakers won't because he is trying to get to a greater truth about how people can be more multi-faceted.

in this case, we're talking about warren schmidt. the first shot, as it should, sets up the whole thing. he's in a room, by himself. there's a party for him that night, but what a consolation prize is that? after that, he's on his own. he returns to work, because what else does he know? he offers his expertise to the young man who replaced him, but that young man is eager to make his own way; warren is not needed.

that's the common thread of the movie, the theme: warren schmidt believes, and is shown repeatedly in the film, that he is not necessary, that he is often in the way, a nuisance, etc. and that's why the last scene/last shot of the movie is so well-deserved, so complex in its simultaneous pity/joy/beauty -- after his whole life and this whole adventure he goes through during the movie, he gets one single, small sign that he actual made a difference to someone. its so well done and such a strong scene and payoff that i cried along with jack nicholson right there in the theatre.

but then i realized i was in hamilton and i needed to act more manly or risk getting my ass kicked.