Movie Review: Nebraska
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Director: Alexander Payne
Screenwriter: Bob Nelson
Cast: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Stacy Keach, Bob Odenkirk
Paramount Vantage
Rated R | 110 Minutes
Release Date: December 6, 2013

“I told him I ain’t fiddlin’ with no cow titties.”

That’s no-nonsense June Squibb (About Schmidt), who plays a salt-of-the-Earth Midwestern wife in Nebraska, an affectionate and resonate comedy-drama about family dysfunction.

Directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants), the black-and-white film stars Bruce Dern as Woody Grant, a man with dementia from Billings, Montana who is convinced he’s won a million dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.

His son, David (Will Forte, MacGruber), begrudgingly agrees to drive him to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim his winnings. Along the way, father and son visit Woody’s birthplace for an impromptu family reunion where David learns all about his estranged father’s troubled past.

Beautifully shot and brilliantly written, Nebraska is a devastatingly authentic portrait of fathers and sons and the space between them. Alexander Payne is a humanist filmmaker; he cares deeply for his characters no matter their flaws. You know these people – they’re your parents, your siblings – they’re part of your life, for better or worse.

Payne’s film captures the sadness of watching the ones you love grow old – that clear moment in a parent/child relationship where the child, now an adult, must take care of their father or mother. Woody’s wife (Squibb) and David’s older brother (Bob Odenkirk) feel that Woody should be placed in a home – as his dementia is getting worse. David, on the other hand, thinks that his father just needs something to live for.

The result is a bittersweet story filled with genuine characters having honest, relatable conversations about life and how memory (or the absence of memory) affects reality. There’s so much compassion in Payne’s surprisingly upbeat but mordant film, you can’t help but empathize with Forte’s David as he strives to give his father’s life meaning again.

With award-worthy performances by Dern, Squibb, and Forte, Nebraska is one of the best films of the year – and a personal favorite for its staggering level of authenticity. The purpose of art is to reveal a truth, and make that truth bearable, and it is by that measure that Payne’s latest film is a work of art; a must-see movie that will no doubt surprise and touch audiences who experience it.


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