Cinema and Drama

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Based on the movie About Schmidt- what are the answers to the following questions: 1. Do you think Warren Schmidt experiences andropause, male climacteric or midlife crisis? If so which one do you see? 2. What purpose do you think his letters to Ndugu fulfilled in his life? For example, were they a kind of “life journal” or or were they like a “personal dairy”?   3. What were the three life events that occurred in Schmidt’s life? How did they combine to alter or affect his life course. 4.Why do you think Warren cries at the end on the movie when he viewed the painting Ndugu has sent him?  

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There is something of Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman in Warren Schmidt, who realizes the wasting of his life, although the movie pales in comparison to Arthur Miller's powerful drama. Clearly, Jack Nicholson holds the film together with his superb portrayal of a man who has lost sight of his family in his preoccupation with his job as an actuary for Woodmen of the World. Once he is retired, Schmidt offers his help to his successor, but is refused. As a further symbol of his uselessness, Schmidt's files and other contents of his desk have been tossed into a box, thrown into the garbage. Feeling that his career has been summarily erased, Schmidt becomes extremely despondent. Having allowed his personal life to stagnate as so many men do when they become absorbed in their occupations, Schmidt finds himself without much purpose in life. But, when he sees a plea from a charitable organization requesting sponsors for orphaned children in Africa, Schmidt decides to adopt a child.

1. Schmidt suffers from age-related symptoms. Like many men who leave the workforce, he becomes aware of his age and begins to have the feelings of despondency and loss of interest associated with andropause. Adding to his feelings of alienation, Schmidt suffers the grief of losing his wife, a wife from whom he has long been estranged as he learns when he discovers love-letters  from a mutual friend. Later in the film, one night under the stars, Warren climbs atop his motor home and looks up, addressing his 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? I forgive you for Ray. I forgive you. That was a long time ago, and I know I wasn't always the king of kings. I let you down. I'm sorry, Helen. Can you forgive me? Can you forgive me?"

2. Schmidt writes to the adopted boy, Ndugu, about his alienation. Because the boy is a stranger and on the other side of the world, Schmidt is more candid about his feelings than he would be otherwise. Thus, Ndugu provides Schmidt an outlet for his feelings of discouragement as well as providing him a reason to be cheerful and caring. While Schmidt does include his personal feelings, his letters are more like a "life journal" as he writes of issues common to all men.

3. The three chief events portrayed in this film in the life of Schmidt are (a) his retirement, (b) his wife's death, and (c) the rejection of him by his daughter Jeannie, who adamantly refuses to listen to her father's pleas not to marry Randall.

"All of a sudden you're taking an interest in what I do? You have an opinion about my life *now*? Okay, you listen to me. I am getting married the day after tomorrow and you are going to come to my wedding and you are going to sit there and enjoy it and support me or else you can just turn right around right now and go back to Omaha."

4. Sadly, it is only with a strange boy that Schmidt develops any kind of meaningful relationship. When Ndugu sends his loving drawing, Schmidt is moved to tears as he realizes the affection the boy feels for him; in addition, Schmidt is moved emotionally as he realizes that he has wasted his past in not forging loving relationships with his own family.

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