Nebraska (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | January 2, 2014 | 4 Comments

Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, andBruce Odernkirk in Nebraska (2013)

Nebraska 5 Stars

Nebraska, Alexander Payne’s latest, is a poignantly hilarious, deeply moving film about life, loss, love, and a million dollars. Featuring two astounding lead performances, it’s truly one of the must-sees of the year.

Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant in Nebraska (2013)Bruce Dern stars as Woody Grant, an aging, former-alcoholic grouch who thinks he’s won a million dollars from a magazine sweepstakes competition. He’s so convinced, he’s ready to walk from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska in order to claim his prize. Woody’s older son Ross (Bob Odenkirk) and wife Kate (June Squibb) are desperate to stop him from falling for this scam. But Woody’s younger son, David (Will Forte), agrees to drive him, just so he can “have his fantasy for a couple more days”. Along the way, Woody and Dave meet up with their eccentric family. They even stop at bars, walk through a graveyard, and try to steal back an old air compressor.

Nebraska feels refreshingly unlike the recent crop of longer, louder blockbusters. Director Payne does an excellent job with the film and his voice lends some quirky originality to the film that is all his own. The script, by debut screenwriter Bob Nelson, is packed with droll jokes and delicate characters. And the story is both a comedic road-trip adventure and a nuanced, complex portrait of everyday people in everyday America.

Pheron Papamichael’s cinematography also stands out, with his subtly sweeping panoramas of rural America. More noticeable is the lush black-and-white beauty. Why is the film shot in black-and-white? I don’t know but, for some reason, it adds to the small, intimate feel of the film. By the way, when was the last time a film’s cinematography stood out? There’s also a wonderful score by Mark Orton and even the length of the film is just right (at 115 minutes), thanks to Kevin Tent’s editing.

David Grant (Will Forte) just wants to make his dad happy in Nebraska (2013)At the heart of the movie is an astoundingly good performance by Bruce Dern. As Woody, he’s mostly silent but he coneys so much visually, in a way only the best actors can. It’s a note-perfect yet beautifully understated role. Equally good is Will Forte as Dave. He’s perfect playing the Everyman trying to make his dad happy, thanks to his fine comic-timing and some surprising dramatic chops. June Squibb is just right as Woody’s wife, Kate. Squibb both hysterical and touching in a delightful scene-stealing performance. The supporting cast is also filled with top-notch character actors. Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach, and Angela McEwan make the most of their small but vital parts, while Tim Driscoll and Devin Ratray (real-life siblings) are laugh-out-loud funny as Dave’s obnoxious cousins.

Alexander Payne’s Nebraska is undeniably one of the best films of the year. The film is sometimes hysterically funny and sometimes pensively sorrowful, but its tale of family relationships in a lived-in America is always riveting. Bruce Dern, Will Forte, and June Squibb highlight a phenomenal cast, while the screenwriting, cinematography, editing, and music departments are nothing short of extraordinary. Nebraska had some truly interesting things to say. And it’sdefinitely worth listening to.


4 Responses to “Nebraska (Flack’s Review)”

  1. Anisa
    January 2nd, 2014 @ 8:56 pm

    Well said. I agree with many of your thoughtful observations. This is one of my favorite films of the year as well. Alexander Payne’s distinctive style of precise editing, well-nuanced musical score, beautiful cinematography (verging on photographic), thoughtful, witty, interesting characters that come to life as the film moves along blended in a style more reminiscent of a silent film rather than over-blown, over-loud CGI bloated films of today is refreshing. Bravo.

  2. flickflack
    January 2nd, 2014 @ 11:03 pm

    Thanks for the comment! Glad you enjoyed the review and agreed with my critiques.

  3. Heather
    February 6th, 2014 @ 10:37 pm

    I just saw this movie earlier this afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters were wonderful, though it took a while before I liked June Squibb’s character, but the family itself was quite relatable. The ending was terrific and had me smiling for hours afterwards. One of the better movies I’ve seen in a long time!

  4. Nina Danielson
    March 9th, 2014 @ 6:13 pm

    I found Nebraska to be such a gem of a movie. I’m surprised it didn’t get more recognition. I’m so glad that you saw ALL the magic in it! Love, Nina

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