Nebraska Movie Review
Bruce Dern plays a senile alcoholic who mistakenly believes he has won a million dollars in Nebraska, the latest great movie from Alexander Payne, the director of Sideways and The Descendants. Funny, entertaining and heartfelt, Nebraska is a simply told but impeccably executed comedy-drama that will stay with you long after the end credits roll.
Not all that surprising, considering Alexander Payne doesn't make bad movies.
Nebraska is funny in a simple, understated kind of way. The movie is a quirky look at regular, quirky people in a regular, quirky town doing regular, quirky kinds of things. By not trying to do too much (it is even filmed in black and white), Nebraska succeeds in being one of the most engaging and lasting movies of the year.
I've always lived in places that do not at all resemble small town America, and especially not Midwest America. But I do visit my grandma, who lives in a small town in Wisconsin, and everything in Nebraska reminded me of where she lives. In other words, Nebraska has a lot of old people, aging taverns, farms, gossip and old people. Payne, working from a script by Bob Nelson, really captures the essence of such things - the good and the bad - like few films ever have.
The acting is terrific. Bruce Dern is good (though the Oscar talk is a bit premature), as long as you consider an old man playing a frumpy old man as great. Will Forte, the lead protagonist in the movie, is good as well, though he is the requisite straight man among a cast of crazy characters.
The real scene-stealer is June Squibb, who plays Dern's wife and Forte's mother. Squibb absolutely dominates every scene she's in with her sharp-tongued, wise and take-no-bullshit-from-anyone demeanor, and it would be a shame if she doesn't get serious award attention come the end of the year.
When I walked out of the theater, I considered Nebraska to be a fun, lighthearted picture. Nothing more, nothing less. But the more I think about it, the more I appreciate the finer details of Nebraska - from Squibb's hilarious performance to the small moments between Forte and Dern and the way Payne complements and contrasts the various supporting characters.
A week later, it's clear: Nebraska is one of the better movies of 2013.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.