Writer: Casey LeeWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“About Schmidt”, “The Descendants” & “Sideways”
"Nebraska" opens with a stumbling Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) walking dangerously along the highways until a police cruiser stops him on the side of the road. When Woody's middle-aged son, David (Will Forte), picks up his father at the station and sends him home to his mother and Woody's wife, Kate (June Squibb), David finds out that this isn't the first time that Woody had attempted his interstate walk as though he was on a mission. That mission turns out to be picking up a million dollars that Woody had allegedly won based on a letter he had received. After failing to talk Woody out that the letter is an old-fashioned marketing gimmick, David finally decides to indulge his father and takes a few days off work to personally drive Woody to collect his 'winnings', 750 miles and two states away from their home at Billings, Montana.
Shot soberly in black and white, "Nebraska" takes us back into exploring missed chances and unspoken petty ills that get unloaded when a life-changing event happens for family drama to ensue, just as he did in "About Schmidt" and "The Descendants". When Woody and David's trip needs to take a little detour from their destination, they end up in the sleepy farm town of Hawthorne; Woody's hometown, where the wives of Woody's relatives make conversations about awkward subjects and the men watch TV in awkward silence in one entirely awkward family reunion with nothing to talk about. When Woody's supposed unclaimed windfall turns him into an overnight town celebrity, the reunion with family and friends slowly becomes uncomfortable when old scores, old debts and old stories are brought up that are best left unsettled, unpaid and untold.
Payne's direction once again brings the best out of his lead, previously with Nicholson and Clooney, and now pulls out an applauding (and again Oscar nominated) performance from Bruce Dern. Even with Dern often dazed, cloudy and staring off into pace, Payne's placement of him in the shot subtly captures a man of the baby boomer generation whose life had past him, gone after years of alcoholism and indifference, but still clinging to make his last hurrah before his end or the end of his mental state. Dern's grunts and short work with words may not appear to say much but it puts a prick into the heart of anyone who has had to take care of a relative on the verge on Alzheimer's. To this, Will Forte puts on a calm performance as David, who tries to put on a show that his life couldn't be better, even though it is has fallen into a rut that is just as pointless, directionless and loveless as his father's.
The real standout, however, goes to June Squibb's Kate Grant (another Oscar-nominated category), whose sharp tongue and even sharper mind is an acidic joy when she joins the reunion with a family that is aging into cluelessness. Kate is not stingy with her remarks and choice of words to those she never liked, family or not, and her misgivings on anyone who is trying to exploit her muddled husband's over-generosity that ruined their lives and most likely drove her family out of Hawthorne in the first place, is a hidden sledgehammer behind the face of a deceivingly likable and petite grandmother.
If compared to "The Descendants", "Nebraska" is not quite as dramatic but its quiet moments are effecting, toned with the right mood by the country tunes of Mark Orton. It's dry pace isn't meant for all (especially if you can drive 850 miles under 8 hours), but for those who can relate with someone who has elderly worries or used to the motions of Alexander Payne, you can easily settle in like enjoying the view outside of a slow drive, especially in that final scene when Woody finally has his moment.Cinema Online, 12 February 2014