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“Nebraska” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

November 8, 2013

Screen shot 2013-11-08 at 4.46.27 PMIn my review of “The Descendants” back in 2011, I discussed Alexander Payne’s unsung trilogy known as the ‘Men of Lost Souls’; “Abouth Schmidt”, “Sideways”, and “The Descendants” were those films. They’re movies about men with lost causes, hopelessness shrouding them, and having the people around them carry them to a hopeful conclusion. Warren Schmidt has the respect of 6-year old African pen pal, Miles relies on Jack (vice/versa), and Matt King has his daughters at his side. Woody Grant however, is far from hopeless, he’s gonna be a millionaire!

Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) convinces himself he won $1 million dollars from some magazine he decides to collect his winnings personally. After many treks by foot, leading to the local cops finding him, his son David (Will Forte), decides to safely drive Woody from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska. Things get a little waylaid in a small town in central Nebraska where Woody grew up, after he suffers a head injury. Things get a little dicy once old friends and crabby family members learn he may be a soon to be millionaire.

The film is brilliantly told with deadpan humor and a unique visual style, Payne decides to shoot the film in traditional black & white film. Which I feel adds to the dreamlike state the humor of the film is evoking. This is a movie about dreams, Woody has this incredible dream of achieving big riches he never thought he could successfully earn before.

Woody is an old war vet and a drunkard. He’s distant to his two sons, and cannot stand his loud-mouth wife. But, once the concept of a million dollars falls into his lap, the determination he lost years ago finds it’s way back.

However, the movie is also a father/son tale, it’s ultimately the story of a son trying to penetrate his impenetrable father with love, respect, and admiration both men have been missing their whole lives. Woody’s wife thinks he’s crazy for doing this, David’s older brother Ross (Bob Odenkirk) thinks David is being cruel lending their father on this stupid journey, only David himself is ready to accept the journey and perhaps find something dear at the end.

Screen shot 2013-11-08 at 4.46.44 PM“Nebraska” is a modern Don Quxiote & Sancho Panza tale, if I had to compare it to anything. This is a crazy journey, which may not have the proper pay-off one who expects untold riches would be vying for, but it’s a journey none the less into obscurity and what these two adventures will find is something unexpected and felicitous.

Bruce Dern gives the performance of his career as tortured soul with the determination of a lion, and SNL’s Will Forte surprisingly enough gives an incredibly nuanced performance as the son along for the ride. There are terrific supporting players; June Squibb is the great scene stealer of this movie and garner’s most of the laughs. All three players should garner major Oscar attention, especially Dern, who won Best Actor at this years Festival de Cannes.

GRADE: A-

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