ABOUT SCHMIDT (R)
Jack Nicholson triumphs as the namesake of this rueful gem from director Alexander Payne ('Election'). After the sudden death of his wife, retired insurance man Warren Schmidt saddles up his mammoth Winnebago and heads to Denver, where he hopes to prevent the marriage of his daughter (Hope Davis) to an amiable slug who sells waterbeds (Dermot Mulroney). What makes his odyssey so special is how beautifully ordinary it is. And like so much of ordinary life, there's a good deal of disorder that never entered into Schmidt's calculations.
RABBIT-PROOF FENCE (PG)
Director Phillip Noyce has turned an ugly chapter in Australian history into a film of great beauty and intelligence. The year is 1931, and a government policy decrees that all half-caste children (whose fathers were white and whose mothers were Aborigines) be taken from their homes and trained as servants in detention camps. Based on a true story, the film follows three girls who escape from the camp and make their way home along a 1,500-mile rabbitproof fence. The untrained young actresses have a stunning screen presence, as do the rugged landscapes. (Stephen Blair)