Movie Review #720
Blue Lake Media Fund
Bona Fide Productions
Echo Lake Productions
Distributor: Paramount Vantage
Spoken Languages: English – Spanish
Directed by Alexander Payne. Produced by Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa. Written by Bob Nelson.
Rated R by the MPAA – infrequent profanity. Runs 1 hour, 55 minutes. Premiered at Cannes Film Festival on May 23, 2013; at Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival and Vancouver International Film Festival on September 26, 2013; at Hamburg Film Festival on September 28, 2013; at Mill Valley Film Festival on October 3, 2013; at New York Film Festival on October 10, 2013; at London Film Festival on October 11, 2013; at Hamptons International Film Festival on October 13, 2013; at Chicago International Film Festival on October 16, 2013; at Austin Film Festival on October 25, 2013; at Thessaloniki International Film Festival and Cork International Film Festival on November 9, 2013; at Stockholm International Film Festival on AFI Fest on November 11, 2013; at Napa Valley Film Festival on November 12, 2013; at Ljubljana International Film Festival on November 13, 2013; and at Camerimage Film Festival on November 18, 2013. Limited release in the USA on November 15, 2013. Wide release in the USA on January 24, 2014.
Starring Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, and Stacy Keach. Also starring Mary Louise Wilson, Rance Howard, Tim Driscoll, Devin Ratray, Angela McEwan, Glendora Stitt, Elizabeth Moore, Kevin Kunkel, Dennis McCoig, Ronald Vosta, Missy Doty, and John Reynolds.
“Nebraska” takes some time to get going, as far as its story, but there’s one thing that’s almost impossibly evident from the very beginning. From the opening imagery (a Paramount logo that stands as stock footage from the 1950’s) all the way up to the final shot (a depiction of Bruce Dern and Will Forte driving off into the distance), the movie is thoroughly graced with the most breathtaking landscape shots you’d find of the rural areas the father-son duo travel. It’s all filmed in the Beautiful Black and White, which can be (and, in this case, is) the very definition of the Nostalgic Now. For proof that such a paradox does exist, “Nebraska” is very much worth watching.
And let’s admit, the plot isn’t a story you see everyday. Can we truly say that we’ve seen a comedy-drama, or anything for that matter, about a father and a son who go cross-country for the possibility of a million dollars? (I say “the possibility” because sweepstakes are involved.) I sure don’t think that story’s the most usual one. This isn’t a new idea for director Alexander Payne, though. Remember “Sideways”? Yeah, the one about the guys who went a-ways just for some good wine. That’s kind of what this reminded me of, in its humorous side. Because no one goes all the way from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska for a million-dollar scam. Oh and remember “About Schmidt”? The sentimental side of this movie seemed to put Bruce Dern in Jack Nicholson’s shoes as he searches his past. It’s a good bit of familiar territory.
This is more of a sentimental movie, however, so comparisons to “About Schmidt” seem significantly more welcome. (The acting, as well, is of a very similar caliber, particularly from Bruce Dern and June Squibb.) Rarely does it go overboard with its heart. It’s atmospheric in a way that’s compassionate, with characters that ultimately surprise us with how much they care about each other. No, this isn’t the dysfunctional family we saw in Payne’s “The Descendants”, but June Squibb (the mother) does not seem very approving of her son taking her husband, who likely has Alzheimer’s, to chase his dream. Actually, she doesn’t seem to approve of anybody, and there’s some good comedy that seems to result from this. “I’m going to go pay my respects,” she says, convincing husband Dern and son Forte to come with her to the graveyard. It’s not long before she finds the headstones of everyone of her deceased in-laws, and starts mocking their lives.
Indeed “Nebraska” is a flawed movie. There’s product placement left and right. Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola, Marlboro, Miller Lite, Coors, Coors Lite, Vizio, Kia, Mountain Dew, Bose, Onkyo, and more. You don’t really expect that of a movie so reminiscent of cinema’s Golden Age. But if there’s any one scene that best exemplifies the movie’s stronghold of beauty through all of this, it’s that graveyard scene. Or the fifteen minutes of finale. Eh, let’s go with both of ‘em.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
NEBRASKA IS NOW AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD.