Directed by Alexander Payne. 115 mins.
Worth my time? Yes. (Watched on Blu-ray)
Solid road flick and family drama, but it didn’t live up to all the Oscar hype surrounding it. Made for excellent rainy day watching – I loved how my bleak, drenched surroundings contrasted with the dry (yet equally bleak) locales (beautifully shot in black and white by Phedon Papamichael).
That the plot is secondary in Nebraska came as no surprise. This film belongs to its mostly phenomenal cast. Bruce Dern, an actor with whom I mostly familiar by way of loud Walter Hill pictures, deserves his praise. Perhaps playing a crusty old man comes naturally with age (especially for Dern), but he laces it with plenty of nuanced dough under the flaky exterior. Will Forte, having been one of the weakest SNL players of my generation, is surprisingly grounded and provides Dern with an excellent foil.
The rest of the cast shines too. Since his turn on Breaking Bad, it’s no large surprise to see Bob Odenkirk doing good drama, but it’s nice to see that his performance as Saul Goodman wasn’t just a fluke. Stacy Keach and all the other players feel like they were plucked right out of real Midwestern everyday life. My only complaints stem from Tim Driscoll and Devin Ratray’s roles as Bart and Cole. They were fun, but they didn’t feel quite right for this film – there was something a little too Coensian about them.
Despite its overly transparent structure (if you’ve seen more than a few movies in your life, you’ll be able to predict exactly when one character throws a punch), Nebraska is exactly the type of film I hoped Alexander Payne would helm after the witty-yet-obnoxiously-post The Descendents. Jeff Nichols’ Mud remains my favorite small-town film of 2013, but Nebraska is an honorable second place.
“Does he have Alzheimer’s?” No, he just believes what people tell him. “That’s too bad.”
(Seen and written on 2014-02-28)