Next up, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska. The comedy-drama, directed by Payne, stars Bruce Dern, Will Forte, and June Squibb. It is rated R for language.
Nebraska tells the story of an alcoholic father, Woody Grant (Dern), as he attempts to make the trip from Billings, Montana all the way to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect a million dollar sweepstakes prize that he believes he has won. Stubbornly intent on collecting his money, Woody and his son David (Forte) take a road trip that includes a stop in the town Woody grew up in. Along the way, they face unnecessary, unwarranted publicity as their relatively weak relationship is put to the test.
8.5 out of 10
Seeing Nebraska was honestly kind of forced. You could tell by the trailers that this movie was not going to be two hours of fun and enjoyment. Any movie told in black and white, is about old people, and is named after a notoriously boring state won’t appeal to many, especially teenagers such as myself. However, I surprised myself and really enjoyed it, thanks to its strong acting, beautiful direction, and wonderful writing.
I had never heard of June Squibb before this movie, but now I’m a huge fan. She was absolutely hilarious as Woody Grant’s sassy, gutter mouthed wife Kate. She played it with a simple, old lady innocence who is struggling with her husband’s status, but she did not let that get in the way of her spitting out bold, racy and hilarious comments every now and then. Bruce Dern was also fantastic. He never lost his persona. You could tell he was struggling the whole movie, yet we never lost his sense of ignorant hope. His relationship with his son, or lack thereof, is really crucial to understanding the struggle each of them face, and thankfully, both Dern and Forte play their part in making the movie successful. Speaking about Forte, he delivers a very solid, underrated performance as an estranged son who is clearly struggling, but must hide it. Overall, the leading trio has great chemistry that help display the true love and affection they have for each other, even if it is hard to see. Hey, even Saul—I mean Bob Odenkirk (as Ross, Woody’s other son)—is pretty good!
One of the most notable things about this film is that it is shot in entirely black and white. Extremely smart decision by Alexander Payne. The unique lack of color allows a sense of authenticity. It stylized the vibrant Midwestern background, while also allowing Bruce Dern’s face to stand out. I know that may sound ridiculous, but it’s really effective in making his character the focus of our attention. There are so many subtle things that give the film a melancholy but intimate feel. The beautiful camera work that allows us to get a feel of the Midwestern setting. The music accomplished the same feat. It’s all done exceptionally well. The entire film just has a nice simplicity to it. Alexander Payne did a phenomenal job in providing this film with the tone and feel that it has.
Now the plot isn’t anything special either. There isn’t much that will excite you, or keep you into it. It isn’t actualy about a guy going to get a million dollars, nor is about the people who are trying to get that money. It’s really about the relationship between Woody and his son. This isn’t a plot driven film in any way. It makes up for this with its comedy. As I mentioned before, this movie is so funny. There’s a wry sense of humor to it that makes it so funny. It’s an extremely applicable, realistic type of humor as well. It’s something that allows the movie to be really enjoyable, despite its natural tendency to lack excitement.
I’ve seen people label this film as ‘one of those movies you have to watch once, but never again’. I see the reasoning behind this statement. It’s definitely something you should watch at least once because of how it emphasizes relationships and explores family love. Is it something I would watch again? It is a great movie and I really enjoyed it, but I don’t think it is a movie I would watch for fun.
7.5 out of 10
Of course, it would be kind of a pointless task to try and assign a topic that each of the Best Picture nominees live up to thematically. But, if I had to pick one, I would definitely say that the topic this year was the idea of what makes up a relationship.
That is a very broad theme indeed. Yet, Her, Philenoma, Dallas Buyers’ Club and 12 Years a Slave live up to it. Heck, there wouldn’t be a problem if Gravity and maybe Captain Phillips were in that list. And I would certainly not have a problem if somebody were to throw Nebraska in there.
Nebraska is what many have deemed as a “hipster” movie. For those of you aren’t quite with it these days, a “hipster” movie is defined as one that drags, has a lot fluff in terms of plot and, most visibly, is shot in a purposefully crude or peculiar fashion. Most would call it ironic maybe. In case adjectives aren’t negative enough for you, yes, “hipster” movies have gained a fair amount of detractors. Now comes the part where I stick up for Nebraska and deem it as the least ironic picture you’ll ever see.
Except, no. It is an absolute irony fest. How could it not be? It’s built on the premise of an old man being paraded around as though he’s won the lottery when all he really has is a scam letter that probably counts as textbook mail fraud and it’s all filmed in black and white. Most importantly, it has that feeling of malaise that comes with the setting the state of Nebraska has to offer.
No, I am not a fan of hipster films. But did Nebraska dig itself out of its ditch?
Half way out. Half way’s good enough for me and apparently good enough for the Academy. The fact is Nebraska does have a lot to say. One can not help but feel the weight of it while he or she watching. It is, very much, about the decay of things. About attempting to polish the broken objects of the past and, mainly, failing to do so. The protagonist, David, is trying to give his father, Woody, the best time he can.
Back in his day Woody was a war veteran who had a business and a united family but now, in the twilight of his life, all of it has evaporated. There’s a scene in which Woody visits his old house which is now ratty and tattered that basically spoon feeds that feeling of deterioration to the audience. One day, you’re a prosperous individual but eventually time could have its way and the most exciting thing in your life is some obscure sweepstakes. That is, unless, you’re able to round up your loved ones and important things once more.
There’s kind of a conflict between whether a film is about what it’s about or how it’s about it. And (Roger Ebert please don’t strike me down) I think Nebraska has just enough to just be what it’s about (It makes sense when you think about it).
Not the strongest of its tier and definitely not for everyone, Nebraska is a battle you’ll have to choose.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%