Movie Review: Nebraska

Alexander Payne, 2013

I wasn't sure if I would like Nebraska or not, as it was shot in black and white. The director is Alexander Payne, though, and he's made many good movies that I have enjoyed, including About Schmidt and Sideways. Although I will say that this film is geared towards an older audience, I did end up enjoying it, and I can see why he chose to use a black and white medium now as well.

David Grant (Will Forte) lives in Billings, Montana, and one day his elderly father Woody (Bruce Dern) is found wandering on the side of the highway. Woody says that he's headed to Lincoln, Nebraska, because he received a letter in the mail saying he won a million dollars. The letter is from a company selling magazines, and is obviously bogus, but he insists it's real. His wife, Kate (June Squibb), has no patience for this, but after he escapes a few more times, David agrees to drive his father to Lincoln. They have a few mishaps along the way and end up in Hawthorne instead, Woody's hometown where some of his brothers still live, and it turns out to be a family reunion weekend, with everyone wanting to cash in on some unpaid loans now that Woody is rich. David tries to tell everyone that Woody didn't actually win the money, but no one will believe him, and soon enough he's the talk of the town.

What I found very interesting about this movie is that Payne showed people's personalities in actions, rather than words. Woody's wife, Kate, whom another character called a "bitch," was one of my favorites in the film because she was such a firecracker, and on the surface it might look like she's always yelling at Woody and being impatient with him; however, during one scene, we see her brush his hair back a little bit, and we can see that she actually does care for him. Woody's son, David, the other main character, often seems impatient with his father too, but agrees to drive him to Lincoln, even though he knows the million dollars is a scam, just so his dad can get out of town for a bit and have a change of scenery.

Yes, see this film. It's a little slow in parts but otherwise I enjoyed it. Payne was quoted saying that he made the film in black and white because "it’s such a beautiful form ... this modest, austere story seemed to lend itself to being made in black and white, a visual style perhaps as austere as the lives of its people," which I agree with. The story is a simple story, although it has many layers of complexities, and the black and white helped to underscore the story and the small towns in which it took place. I wouldn't be surprised to see Bruce Dern get an Oscar nomination for his performance here, as well - he and June Squibb (Kate) were fantastic, and Will Forte also did a nice job. I'd recommend Nebraska to anyone who likes a good story, although some age groups probably will like this movie more than others.

Nebraska is in theaters today, November 27th, and is rated R with a runtime of 115 minutes. 3.5 stars out of 5.

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