Nebraska is an endearing slice-of-life look at an aging old drunkard losing his mental faculties and how his family is dealing with it—done in the most genuine manner imaginable. This definitely feels like a labor of love from director Alexander Payne and it’s not a film for everyone. Personally, I like it that way.

Should art be made with the audience in mind?

Or should the artist create what they want and just let an audience form around it?

Nebraska certainly falls under the latter classification. I wouldn’t think most people would enjoy this movie, but Nebraska’s earned a fairly successful run—probably some thanks in part to hipsters. If you’ve seen any preview, Nebraska presents itself as a bleak black and white movie with a methodical, plodding pace. For vast stretches of this film, there is nothing interesting going on, but the beautiful cinematography provides a nice frame for the story. Managing to get past the boredom is half the battle of enjoying this movie.

Bruce Dern is phenomenal as Woody Grant, the aforementioned aging old drunkard who’s convinced that he’s won a million-dollar mega sweepstakes magazine prize. Woody drank his life away and was absent as a father although he was physically present. Now, all he wants to do is claim that fucking prize.

Grant Family

The only problem is that he lives in Billings, Montana, and needs to go to Nebraska because he doesn’t trust the post office to deliver his million dollars. Although Woody is borderline crazy and losing his mind, he’s a lovable old coot that keeps trying to walk down the highway to Nebraska because no one in his family will drive him there. But his son, David (played by Will Forte), begrudgingly decides to take him.

Will Forte and Bob Odenkirk are spot-on casting choices as Woody’s sons, David and Ross, while June Squibb is a delight and the funniest character in the movie as Kate, Woody’s wife. June Squibb steals several scenes as the comic relief, and the cemetery visit made me legitimately laugh out loud.

Still, Nebraska is humorous more than funny.

Enter: Stacy Keach.

KeachDespite the entertainment value provided by the family interactions, this movie needed a villain (of sorts) to focus negative attention on and make Woody more likable in the process. Without Stacy Keach’s sleazy creepitude as Ed Pegram, Nebraska would have made itself too boring to overcome. I fucking love Stacy Keach, and I would have watched his movie much sooner if I knew of his involvement. If anything, Nebraska would have benefitted from even more focus on the character of Ed Pegram.

The longer this film ruminates, I find myself liking it even more.

Nebraska reads like a 2-hour feature length film version of a Stephen Wright joke. After watching this movie, I’ve now seen every entry in the Best Picture category except Philomena—and that will remain the case. While Nebraska won’t win Best Picture at tonight’s Oscars, it’s definitely more worthy as a nominee than Captain Phillips or Gravity. Bask in the boredom of Middle America and revel in that you’re only visiting for a while. And if you don’t like this movie…

Go Fuck Yourselves

3.5 out of 5 stars

  1. […] a Slave: 4.5-star review American Hustle: 4-star review The Wolf of Wall Street: 3.5-star review Nebraska: 3.5-star review Captain Phillips: 2.5-star review Gravity: 2.5-star review Philomena: 2-star […]

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