"I ain't fiddlin' with no cow titties. I'm a city girl!"
Alexander Payne has directed yet another powerful film by creating real characters going through real life situations in a very poignant and hilarious way. Nebraska is one of those films that manages to balance serious subject matters with light touches of comedy by creating characters from Midwestern American society that feel authentic and are easy to relate to. It's a heartwarming film with some very emotional dramatic moments that are taken to another level thanks to some strong performances. Bruce Dern stars in the role of a lifetime and his performance is so natural that he completely owns this movie and never misses a note. It's a difficult performance because due to the subject matter one wrong note could've made the audience feel like it was being manipulated, but it never does and Payne manages to direct his actors in such a way that I never felt he was being condescending. Will Forte also delivers in a strong dramatic role sharing great chemistry with Dern and making this a strong father-son road trip story that stands out above other such films. June Squibb is hilarious as well and she brings some comedic relief during some of the emotional or more dramatic moments. This road trip film is gorgeously captured through black and white cinematography giving the film a more nostalgic tone towards the past. It's a well balanced road film about old age and family, and one of Payne's best films (I'd rate it second, behind Sideways my personal favorite of his). This sad and tender film takes us through a journey that may be slow at times, but Payne makes sure he rewards his audience for sticking with it.
Written by Bob Nelson, Nebraska is an original screenplay centering on a Midwestern American family from Billings, Montana. The father, Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) who's in his late 70's and approaching dementia, is convinced that he has won a million dollars after receiving a newsletter, but everyone else in his family knows it's just one of those scams for people to purchase magazine subscriptions. His wife Kate (June Squibb) can't convince him otherwise and neither can their two adult sons, Ross (Bob Odenkirk) and David (Will Forte). Since no one will take him to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his million dollars he tries to walk there. Finally David decides to call in sick at the electronic store where he works at and take his father to Lincoln. He believes this is a good opportunity to get closer to his estranged father who has always had alcohol related problems and been a very quiet person. Together they embark on the journey, but along the way they agree to stop by the small town in central Nebraska where his father grew up and meet up with their relatives. The trip becomes an illuminating experience for David who begins to understand some of the things that made his father the way he is, and through this unexpected journey the two grow closer together.
This could've been yet another forgettable father and son film, but thanks to Payne's unique style and deadpan humor along with Dern and Forte's powerful performances Nebraska is a beautiful and touching film. The tone of the film balances really well the family dynamics with the longing and yearning for the past mixed with the discomfort and emptiness of the present. Dern portrays this character so well and the final scenes he shares with Forte are touching and tender. It's a genuine story and in my opinion it's an improvement from Payne's previous film, The Descendants, which I enjoyed a little less than this one. Nebraksa is a very revealing film and I loved the way the father son relationship was slowly built without ever being manipulative.