[Quick Summary: A recent widower takes a road trip to his daughter's wedding.]
*WARNING: This post contains spoilers.*
If you don't want to know the ending, STOP READING NOW.
Everyone gone? Good.
Here's the script* in a nutshell:
- Warren is forced into retirement.
- Then Warren's wife Helen dies early on, but he's not exactly heartbroken.
- Warren struggles in this new life, so he takes a road trip to his daughter's wedding.
- On the way, he revisits his alma mater, and makes a fool of himself.
- He arrives at the wedding, and isn't thrilled with his future in-laws.
- Warren returns home to face that his life has lost meaning.
So how would you end the story with a satisfying (but not necessarily happy) ending?
Let's work backwards:
- The writers wanted Warren to return home, depressed, and gets an unexpected, hope filled letter.
- In order to justify this ending, the writers went back to Act 1 and created an orphan kid.
- Warren writes to this kid periodically throughout Act 2.
- The letters show us Warren's mental state and growth.
- Then when lonely Warren gets home --> He reads the first letter from this kid --> Someone cares.
Why is this ending satisfying to me?
Warren has lost a lot along the way.
But he started out disconnected, and he ends connected.
In the end, the journey was worth what he gained.
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: A satisfying ending resolves a big issue.
About Schmidt (2002)
by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor
From the novel by Louis Begley
* FYI: The film's plot differs somewhat from the novel.