19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful and desolate
Black and white cinematography seems just right for the high flatlands of the Dakotas, Montana, and Nebraska, and I think that what I'll remember most clearly about this movie are the spare images of the land, which Alexander Payne makes sure we see in a variety of lights and times of day. The sense of impermanence in the small towns that are passed through, and in the...
Published 4 months ago by Stanley Crowe
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dreadfully Slow, but Worth Seeing
This film has a great, very simple, story. It is beautifully written and acted. However, it has one major flaw: it is dreadfully slow! I actually ended up watching it at double speed (my player still plays the sound at that speed) and it was still slow moving! However, despite this slow pace, the story about a father with dementia and a son who goes out of his way to meet...
Published 4 months ago by Chris Jackets
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful and desolate,
Black and white cinematography seems just right for the high flatlands of the Dakotas, Montana, and Nebraska, and I think that what I'll remember most clearly about this movie are the spare images of the land, which Alexander Payne makes sure we see in a variety of lights and times of day. The sense of impermanence in the small towns that are passed through, and in the images of the aging people, suggest that everything changes and yet nothing does. The land looks as it must have looked when Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) was a boy, probably around 1930 and how it looked when he came back from the Korean War to a choice between farming and being a mechanic. Woody is an alcoholic in the early stages of dementia, and he believes that a flier he has received in the mail means that he has won a million dollars, refusing to believe that the flier doesn't promise the million but only a chance at it (if the number on the flier is a winner). His son Bobby (Will Forte), in an unsatisfying job and a problematic relationship, decides to humor his dad by driving him from their home in Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska to pick up the money.
It's not easy to say where the power of this movie resides. Bruce Dern gives a totally convincing performance as a stubborn, failing old man, but the movie can hardly be said to be a character study, for Woody is beyond development or self-expression. Always a man of few words (we're told by other characters), he has fewer now that he is failing. There's pathos in this, and there's a sense of how difficult it must be to live with and care for such a person. Woody's wife, Kate (June Squibb), has a point when she asks her son who is concerned about his father, "What about me?" It's a poignant question, since Woody doesn't seem to have played a very active part in his sons' growing up. Kate is tough and blunt, and we can see that these qualities are carrying her through a difficult time -- and (we get hints in the movie) there have been earlier difficult times. Squibb gives a vivid performance here, though the character as conceived by the script verges on the tough matriarch stereotype. And there's the family comedy dimension of the movie -- on their way to Lincoln, Woody and Bobby visit the family of Woody's brother (whose two thuggish sons form perhaps a too-convenient comic contrast with Bobby) in the little town where they all grew up. The word gets around the more extended family and the townsfolk that Woody is really a millionaire -- and all sorts of people come out of the woodwork claiming a share of Woody's good fortune because of what they claim they did for him way back when. The focus of that theme comes to a head in a confrontation with Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach), Woody's old partner in an auto-mechanic business. Ed reckons Woody owes him around 20 grand. Woody reckons that Ed owes him a compressor that he stole. Heaven only knows the truth of matter, but Ed is one mean dude, and he gets a kind of comeuppance.
So . . . all of these strands are engaging, and yet the movie seems to add up to a bit more. For me, it was focused in a conversation that Bobby has with Peggy Nagy, the editor/owner of the local paper and (Bobby learns) an old flame of Woody's who was beaten out by Kate because she (Peggy) "wouldn't let Woody touch all the bases." The implication is that Kate would, and did. Bobby asks Peggy if, back then, his father drank too much, and Peggy says that of course he did. Out here, she says, "there wasn't much else to do." The movie, especially in its visual dimension, gives Peggy's statement the ring of truth. The land seems both beautiful and remote from human concerns. The towns are small, and the aging people we see, like Woody's brothers and old acquaintances have nothing to talk about. What, we wonder, did their life-experiences amount to? And Woody's taciturn nature begins to seem less an idiosyncrasy and more a matter of the accident of his being born and living in the part of the country that he did. We wonder if Kate, a city girl by her own admission (whatever that means in Nebraska), might have seemed at some point to offer something more -- but in fact she didn't, and now Kate is beaten down too, and Bobby has no clear grip on a future for himself. The image of "success" in the movie is Bobby's brother, Ross (Bob Odenkirk), a news anchor at a small TV station in Billings. Bobby himself works selling audio and video equipment . . . but it doesn't seem to mean much to him.
So it's both ironic and pathetically apt that Bobby is drawn to his father's clear goal -- to go to Lincoln, get that million dollars, and buy himself a truck (even though he doesn't drive any more). Just the idea that the old man's life has purpose must be, at least in part, what drives Bobby to take his dad to Lincoln. And, without giving too much away, the trip is both a failure and a success. What that amounts to for Bobby's future isn't clear, though. What will change for him back in Billings? Will he, as his mother fears, end up like his father -- cranky and old, with a life that has nothing to show for it, still stuck in a beautifully desolate landscape into which he will disappear. The scenes of a visit to the cemetery in Woody's old home town and to Woody's childhood home (now empty and deserted) are high moments in this movie, and they offer no consolation. There is some human tenderness, but it isn't sentimentally inflated, and its effects are likely to be short-lived at best.
This is well worth seeing, though -- much better, I think, than Payne's "The Descendants." The way it connects age to place is very effectively done, and the performances, large and small, couldn't be better.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the road to nowhere,
I loved this film.
It opens with a shot of a bandy-legged, bony-faced old man with a ragged halo of white hair, ambling along the side of a freeway near, as we find out, the town of Billings, Montana.
Turns out he thinks he`s won a million on a lottery scam, so naturally he takes to the road - to Lincoln, Nebraska - to claim his prize. This doesn`t make his wife or his two sons too happy. In the end, one of them, Davie (played with a wonderful restraint by Will Forte) agrees to drive his dad, whom everyone calls Woody, the many miles to Lincoln.
A road movie!
Well, yes, but this one`s shot in gorgeous black-and-white, and manages mostly to avoid the cliches and pitfalls of the many `young man and his dad bonding on the road` movies - though not all of them: director Alexander Payne (whose superb Sideways was a very different kind of road movie) isn`t perfect, though his film comes close.
Bruce Dern, looking like a startled, irascible, ravenous old buzzard much of the time, has found, at the age of 77, the role of his career. He plays Woody without a trace of sentimentality (he`s had plenty of practice over the last fifty years, after all) and the merest hint of a twinkle in the eye when required.
June Squibb is superb as his small, outspoken and equally irritable wife, who joins them on the road.
Most of this moving and at times very funny film takes place in a small town I have no hesitation in calling Nowheresville, Nebraska. A lot of the state is bleak and unpoulated (like most of the States, in fact) and Hawthorne exemplifies the kind of place you might go to die or possibly to kill someone, more likely the latter. The whole town looks terminally closed - apart from the one or two rundown bars. Payne treads a fine line between patronising the town`s inhabitants and treating them with the respect any characters in a drama deserve. He settles for a kind of deadpan indulgence, with lots of close-ups, which works just fine.
They`re in Hawthorne since that`s where Woody grew up, and a whole posse of brothers, old friends, foes and lovers, as well as hangers-on, congregate around the grizzled old man who they assume has already won and pocketed his prize.
The imposing Stacy Keach has a few good scenes as an old associate of Woody`s, and it`s great to see two ageing, often neglected actors in the same film.
The photography is peerless, the script near-faultless, the performances vivid and credible. The original music by Mark Orton is a boon, not least due to the fact that no songs are used, no generic `rootsy` music, but rather a set of brief, apt, specially composed diverse pieces, which fit organically into each scene in which we they`re used - usually during the silent driving interludes on the road.
Dern underplays to tremendous effect. If you think he`s an actor who seldom smiles, wait till you see this!
Apparently, Nicholson, Duvall, Hackman and, interestingly, Robert Forster were all considered for the lead. All I can say is, they chose the right man, and then some.
Dern deserves all the real prizes that are surely coming his way in a couple of months (he`s already bagged the Best Actor award at Cannes). This is a testament to the ragged dreams of an old man, but in its way a film like this can`t help but also be a tribute to an old actor who`s quietly, without fuss, having the time of his life.
Beautiful. Do see it.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Complicated,
'Nebraska' is a gem of a film that has been overlooked by many in Hollywood. However, the storyline and the acting has been given great kudos by those who have seen the film. Filmed in black and white, it brings the melancholy and decay of Nebraska and the life of these characters to the forefront. The story of a man looking for something is told with great charm and many well placed words.
Bruce Dern plays an aged man, Woody, with some senility probably due to his great alcohol consumption over the years. He sits at home and does nothing. His wife, Kate, played by June Squibb, is loud and proud and keeps no holes barred. She says it like it is, and often it is risqué and pretty darn funny. Will Forte plays a son, David, who sells electronics in a store in town in Billings, Montana."another son, Ross, played by Bob Odenkirk is a newsman on the local television station. Mom has run the family for years, Woody with his alcohol, an absent father it seems. Bruce is somehow taken in by a letter in the mail from a firm selling magazine subscriptions but promising a million dollars. Woody decides to go and fetch the money himself. Unable to drive since he lost his driving license, and his wife refuses to drive him, so he starts walking to Lincoln, Nebraska. David realizing Woody is not going to give up decides to drive him. David wants to get away from a relationship gone bad, and the jus time with his dad will be good for them.
The journey is heartwarming and sad at the same time. Will Forte has really shown his acting chops. June Squibb is a true character and deserves her supporting actress role, but it is Bruce Dern who shines. The old codger, not saying much, brain addled with alcohol, but wanting something for his family. Truly an endearing film, anyone who comes from a family will enjoy it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hidden gem - a thoughtful comedy about families and ageing.,
If you have a heart, a sense of humour or a taste (or any one of the three), you will certainly appreciate "Nebraska" (Oscar 2014 nominee in the best film category). This film comes from the director Alexander Payne (Oscar 2014 nominee), who is known to tell laidback and thoughtful tales of people facing changes in their lives. His new film is shot in black and white (Oscar 2014 nominee for best cinematography), but the views are often exquisite breathtaking. This is an intimate road movie about one family, the dudes, and mainly the father-son squad on a road.
A quiet man Woody (Bruce Dern, Oscar 2014 nominee), a retired mechanic, receives one of those letters - you won a million. And, due to the fact that he "just believes stuff that people tell him", Woody is adamant to claim his money. So the journey begins, Woody is taken from his small town in Montana to his disappearing birthplace in Nebraska on the way to Lincoln, where the million awaits - or so he believes. Once the horde of his relatives gets a whiff of the million, the fun begins (actually, it begins much earlier than that in the film, so you are just enjoying all the fun and kerfuffle the scam sweepstakes letter produced!).
In the end, it's all pretty gory and sad, but it has so many wonderfully funny scenes and dialogues. And in the end, it's just a feel-good movie, very blunt about relationships and friendships and getting old. And I guess about love, the parents-children love as well as love between a man and a woman. Woody's snappy wife, Kate (played by June Squibb, Oscar 2014 nominee), who appears in the beginning nagging and irritating, never stopped loving him.
What a film! I loved it.
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 stars... "I'm not trusting the mail with 1 million dollars!",
"Nebraska" (2013 release; 110 min.) is the latest film from Alexander Payne ("Sideways", "The Descendants"). When the film opens, we see an old guy, whom we later learn is Woody Grant (played by Bruce Dern), walking past the city limit sign of Billings, Montana. A police officer driving by pulls over and asks him where he's going. Woody just points beyond the horizon. It eventually comes out that Woody's got a sweepstakes letter stating that 'we are authorized to pay you $1 million dollars' and Woody, who can't drive anymore, is determined to collect the money from the sweepstakes company (located in Lincoln, NE). Woody's wife Kate (played by June Squibb) doesn't know what to do anymore as Woody has 'escaped' on several times from the house to walk all the way to Lincoln. Woody's son David (played by Will Forte) feels sorry for the old man. When asking Woody why he simply doesn't send in the letter to Lincoln via regular mail, Woody explains "I'm not trusting the mail with 1 million dollars!", so David offers to drive to Nebraska. They decide along the way to make a stop in Hawthorne, NE to meet up with long-lost cousins and uncles. At this point we are a good 30 min. into the movie. To tell you more would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Several comments: first and foremost, this film is a love letter and ode to the Midwest, and Nebraska in particular, from director Alexander Payne, himself a native Cornhusker. But beware, the film is drenched in nostalgia, if not melancholy, as life in small town America seems to have lost a step or two along the way, take a look at (fictional) Hawthorne, NE, with its run-down main street and widespread unemployment. Second, "Nebraska" is filmed in dramatic back and white, and the movie brings gorgeous shots as Woody and David drive from Montana to Nebraska by way of Wyoming and South Dakota. For a while, the film does feel like a true road movie, and it makes you want to hit the road yourself. Third, in the gatherings in Hawthorne with family and old acquaintances, you can't but help feeling sorry for the whole bunch, as everyone is convinced that Woody truly is a millionaire and they feel entitled to some of that money, reinforcing the message that money does bring out the worst in people. Last but certainly not least, much has been made by the acting performances in this film, in particular Bruce Dern as the cranky ol' man (he won Best Actor at the Cannes film festival earlier this year), and deservedly so. But for me the true scene stealer in this film is June Squibb as his feisty ol' lady Kate, with her non-stop comments about everything and everyone. At one point, they go visit the graves of family and friends in Hawthorne, and Kate sees the grave of an old flame, just watch what she does next!
The film premiered to great acclaim at the Cannes film festival 6 months ago, and it finally opened at my local art-house theatre here in Cincinnati recently. I went to see it right away. The screening I saw this at was very well attended, and I think this film has all the makings of a solid hit on the art-house theatre circuit, and maybe even more if the film does well in the upcoming awards season. Bottom line: "Nebraska" is a delightful comedy-drama with some serious and nostalgic undertones, and fantastic acting performances. If you are in the mood for something that is miles away from your standard Hollywood fare, you cannot go wrong with this. "Nebraska is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full Review on markharrison.blog.co.uk,
Nebraska is the latest film by critically acclaimed director Alexander Payne as he comes off the back of his brilliant The Descendants with this film, which is shot in black & white throughout. It tells the story of the 80-something Woodrow Grant (Bruce Dern) and his quest to go from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska on account of the fact he thinks he has won $1million. So, after trying to walk the distance, his youngest son, David (Will Forte), gives in and decides to drive him there, despite the fact that he, his brother Ross (Bob Odenkirk) and his mother Kate (June Squibb) are all very sceptical of the situation. As they go on their road trip they end up stopping off at their old home town, a town which now considers Woodrow a bit of a celebrity because of his winnings.
One thing Payne does very well, is simply to make you care. And you care no more about anyone in the film that the main two men, father Bruce Dern who puts an clear award worthy performance with this bleak, touching role with the sense of disorientation. His performance makes you want to root for him, despite coming into the film sceptical yourself, you are yet another person who thinks the $1 million is bogus. But you want him to be right, and you really want to prove yourself wrong, such is the nature of his role. Next to him throughout pretty much the whole film is Woodrow's youngest son David. He has recently gone through a break up of sorts and it seems like he just needs to get out of his home town. And despite the fact he is sceptical himself, he is the only person who really understands what this journey is all about. Not the million dollars, but an old man having something to believe in........
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Film in Every Sense,
This is a 'road movie' with some absolutely classic comedy moments. Director, Alexander Payne, already has `About Schmidt' and `Sideways' as his road movie credits. This film retains the sadness of the former but retains the comedy elements of both. This is very much like the film ` Paris, Texas.'
The filming (crystal clear black & white) is very insular, homing in on the subjects but also portraying the loneliness and isolation of the Midwest as they drive through the state highways, pass various sign posts, churches, small stores, gas stations and small towns. There are no leaves on the trees; the motels are two stars at best, the bars a bit grubby and down market. The families and their homes are working class. It's impossible to tell what the season is or the time of year! It's grey, it's grim, and things seem hard work and uninspiring.
The film is melancholy; it's about deadpan, silences, looks, glances, stares, but also beautiful comedy timing.
Ultimately it's about relationships - father & son, husband & wife, family & friends. It's about confusion & greed, love & understanding, raw instincts & telling it like it is, and lastly, wonderful characters which all classic films require?
Brilliant film, definitely one of the best I've seen in the last 12 months.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal,
A truly multi layered, entertaining and brilliant film. Some of the best scenes i've witnessed in a film. Funny, tragic, but mostly true to life. No way of explaining the storyline to make it sound entertaining, just easily crept its way into my top five. Brilliant
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Family road trip,
Woody Grant is convinced that he has won $1000000 and wants to go to Nebraska to claim the money. His son David is convinced that his dad is the victim of a scam but agrees to go with him anyway and they set off on a cross country road trip. A slow but charming gem of a film, beautifully shot in black and white with an excellent performance from Bruce Dern and fine performances from Stacy Keach and a largely unknown or little known cast as father and son drive across America meeting family and seeing their old home town and seeing just how nasty some people can be when they think you might have money. Funny in places but ultimately a heartwarming film, director Alexander Payne has become a must watch director in the last 10 years or so.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartfelt and Moving,
Alexander Payne may not be widely known, but he should be. He's already directed fantastic dramas like "About Schmidt" and "The Descendants", proving he knows what he's doing. His films may be slow-moving and emotional, but by the end you feel as if you've lived with the characters for years. "Nebraska" is definitely no exception, and may be one of his best movies to date.
Bruce Dern stars as Woody Grant, an aging-father who receives a letter from a sweepstakes company claiming he has won a million dollars. Despite his whole family continuously telling him it is a scam, his son David (Will Forte) offers to drive him to Lincoln, Nebraska so he can collect his money. Forced to face their past problems together, they embark on a unique road-trip full of funny and interesting surprises.
Payne directs beautifully, with stunning black and white visuals that knock you off your feet. Bruce Dern and Will Forte deliver the best performances of their careers, along with great supporting actors like June Squibb and Stacy Keach. It may not be a typical night at the movies, but that's what makes this film great. Rated R for language, "Nebraska" is heartfelt and moving.
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Nebraska [Blu-ray] by Alexander Payne (Blu-ray - 2014)