Thursday, December 26

Nebraska Review

Dir: Alexander Payne
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, and June Squibb

There is a bleakness that is consistently hovering over Alexander Payne’s moody, though interestingly fun, “Nebraska”. Payne is very good at making ordinary people seem so much more meaningful than they probably are. Amidst the atmospheric black and white photographed landscapes of the Midwest Payne is able to paint a portrait of the demise of small town America while keeping a keen grasp of the comedy found within family and the past that defines age. It’s a familiar narrative that is made exceptionally heartfelt in the hands of the accomplished Payne.

 Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is a stubborn old codger who is convinced, because of a letter he received in the mail, that he has won one million dollars. Woody isn’t allowed to drive anymore so he, on more than one occasion, is found trying to walk from Billings, Montana to the sweepstakes office in Lincoln, Nebraska. His concerned son David (Will Forte) is tasked with picking up his father who is determined to make the journey regardless of what his vociferous wife (June Squibb) and annoyed oldest son Ross (Bob Odenkirk) reason. David resolves to take his father to Lincoln, partly for personal connection, but also to accommodate the long shot fantasy his father is holding on to.

“Nebraska” accomplishes the task of being both comically character driven but also subjective about the realities of America’s changing economical climate. Amid Woody and David’s trip down memory lane is a portrait, envisioned through an invented small town, of the misfortune felt by many American’s in recent years. The debate that Payne is mocking people in the Midwest by accentuating the idiosyncrasies of the people doesn’t seem directed in any way malicious. Many of the lead characters, such as Woody and his family, are handled with dignity; displayed as hardworking, proud people who care about each other. Though Payne crafts great characters some of his comedic elements seems forced in certain moments, like joke being repeated one to many times it begins to feel somewhat stale.

The ensemble cast is fantastic especially Bruce Dern in the lead performance as Woody. His mannerisms and deadpan delivery is both droll and melancholy. In a surprising turn Will Forte gives a capable performance, offering a tenderness of a son concerned with his knowingly affected father. June Squibb offers the films best one-liners as Woody’s unabashedly brash wife.

“Nebraska” is thoroughly pleasing in it’s simplistic storytelling approach. Though the characters drive the narrative, the far more interesting aspect is the story told without use the words. That story that Payne depicts in the background, the one focused on a small town similar to those in the Midwest and the struggle that continues there.

Monte’s Rating

4.25 out of 5.00

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