Nebraska (2013)

R   |    |  Adventure, Comedy, Drama


Nebraska (2013) Poster

An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.


7.7/10
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19 December 2013 | Sergeant_Tibbs
8
| On the road again.
It's been nine long years since Alexander Payne's top twenty worthy masterpiece Sideways and I can't shake off the feeling he has another one in him. He's an odd director with his contradictions, safe yet often unsafe, mature yet often silly, exciting yet mellow. I hoped The Descendants would be that film but my expectations were set far too high. While it's grown on me a little since I saw in the theater as I've accepted it's more of an observant drama than a sharp comedy, it's a relatively weak followup to Sideways. Unfortunately I've found that his older films are not good at all, Election disappointed me a lot and I thought About Schmidt was utterly pointless and charmless. I guess that's the main issue with his films, they feel too on- the-surface while it's surface is too low-key to be enough. Sideways manages to connect, but the others feel like their stories are in a bubble, isolated from us.

However, Nebraska has more than enough depth to go around. It may be low-key with its conflict and narrative drive, but its study on the American dream is fascinating. What draws middle-America to riches for nothing? It's become a part of our human condition to strive for that dream. I love films like these where its catalyst is farcical but its approach is mature and thoughtful. It makes you think about time, relationships and generations as our protagonist, played by Will Forte, investigates his father's past, taking that typical amateur detective mold of Payne's films. It's strange that I've recently been in the presence of my namesake's grave as Forte does too. The film regularly conjures deeply personal and specific feelings like that, but not without a great sense of humour, often coming from a silly place. However, it's just chuckles and sighs as the screenplay pulls its punches and holds back for a slighter effect. In a way it's admirable, feeling more honest, in another it's one step short of deep satisfaction. But it's certainly quite satisfying at the very least.

In Payne's films, they're usually about family but only follow part of the family. Nebraska is unusual as eventually the whole unit is together on Woody Grant's journey. The fantastic cast makes this chemistry work and there's an endearing nostalgic quality to see them together on screen. While Forte's character is a bit too passive for him to really shine, despite this being off-type for him, Bruce Dern definitely deserves his acclaim. His bitterness may come out with a snarling bite but he's utterly human and fragile. June Squibb is a welcome presence as she pumps energy into the film's second half, however it's the incredible cinematography steals the show, even beating this year's Gravity for me. The blocking is precise but organic and the shots of the clouds of Nebraska make my stomach sink with their profound beauty. Nebraska may be more intellectually stimulating than emotionally, but perhaps it'll get better on rewatch. Alexander Payne seems like fine wine anyway as his films get better and better.

8/10

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Genres

Adventure | Comedy | Drama

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