NEBRASKA Movie Review – Sean’s Take
“Have a drink with your old man. Be somebody!” If there’s a single moment in Alexander Payne‘s Nebraska that perfectly captures the essence of clarity for David Grant, it would be this one. The moment of solitude that follows, speaks volumes about the parallels that David shares with his father without uttering a single word. Will Forte brings a strongly believable quality to David and through his demeanor, which we see a man who is slightly damaged but gaining a wide-eyed perspective towards life. It is David’s empathetic nature that balances his father’s ornery disposition and his enlightenment is fore-shadowed long before joining his father’s dubious hunt for fortune, as his frustrated girlfriend encourages him to “Do something!” before leaving the home they once shared together.
Bruce Dern gives his career-best performance as David’s father Woody, who comes across simultaneously cantankerous and endearing. Woody is determined to travel 750 miles on foot from Billings Montana to Lincoln Nebraska in anticipation of claiming his million-dollar sweepstakes until fate intervenes and his custody is turned over to his mildly embarrassed son. As Woody’s sailor mouthed wife Kate (June Squibb) and his other son Ross (Bob Odenkirk) attempt to help Woody see reason to no avail, David steps in to take advantage of the opportunity to indulge his father’s fantasy a little longer and perhaps realize his own odyssey in form of a family reunion in Hawthorne, Nebraska. As family members and old acquaintances ostensibly claim Woody’s debt to them, it indirectly develops a tighter family unit and a deeper connection with David and his father.
Phedon Papamichael‘s black and white cinematography adds an archetypal layer to Alexander Payne’s contextual framing of poetic landscapes. Payne’s canvas is faithful to life as the voyeurism of human behavior induces an equal balance of heartbreak and laughter. Thanks to the deadpan humor in Bob Nelson’s ingenuous screenplay, Nebraska offers inventive storytelling and Payne’s personal touches to the story underlines Bruce Dern’s touching performance. There’s a wonderful subtlety that’s present in Nebraska that subconsciously enters our minds, such as the discussion of the empty room in the old Grant family home and it’s these little nuggets that ensure this moving experience will remain in our hearts for many years to come.