Reviewed by Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco
If you are going to have somebody Direct a "Road Trip Film", I suppose you can't turn to anybody better than Alexander Payne.
Payne, who Directed the wildly successful "Sideways" has another great road trip film on his hands in "Nebraska".
The film tells the story of Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) who receives a sweepstakes letter in the mail, thinks he has struck it rich, and talks his son David (Will Forte) into taking a road trip to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim the fortune.
They drive from Montana to Nebraska and along the way meet up with friends, relatives and acquaintances to whom Woody supposedly owes money. David also learns things about his father he never knew or even considered.
It is against this backdrop and story telling device that "Nebraska" tells the stories of family life in the heartland of America.
"Nebraska" was nominated for Best Film and Bruce Dern won for Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival this year. The film has received five Golden Globe Nominations and the AFI has listed it in it's top ten films of 2013.
Interesting choice of a supporting cast here with comedians Will Forte (Saturday Night Live, McGruber) and Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show, Breaking Bad ) delivering wonderful out of norm performances. Forte and Odenkirk play their roles of the sons with understated believability and humanity.
But it is Dern that delivers the role of a life time here in a life time full of great supporting performances.
He is exactly the right age for the role now. The film was supposed to be done right after "Sideways" in 2004, but was delayed because Payne did not want to do another Road Trip film right away. It's hard to imagine that anybody would have been better than Dern in this role at this age. The timing turned out to be a good thing.
Also getting a great deal of attention, and rightfully so, is June Squibb (About Schmidt) in her role as the wife of Woody and mother of David and Ross. Squibb plays the cantankerous and always annoyed Kate Grant to humorous perfection.
The only thing that is slightly annoying about this film is the fact that it is shot in black and white. In fact, even the Studio wanted Payne to shoot this film in color. Supposedly, there is an alternate version in color somewhere which will probably end up on the DVD box set in the future.
But then I started thinking about the symbolism of that decision. People in the midwest, where this film is shot often see things in black and white....right and wrong...there is no middle ground. Perhaps this is what Payne (who grew up in Nebraska and actually used the state as a location in his film "About Schmidt") and his cinematographer Phedon Papamichael were trying to convey here.
It's still a visually beautiful film to watch, but in this case, it probably would be more beautiful in color.
The fine acting, use of actors and the story telling make the film a must see and should garner attention at Oscar time.
Directed by Alexander Payne
Written by Bob Nelson
With Bruce Dern, Will Forte, Bob Odenkirk
Stacey Keach, June Squibb
Five Scoops of Bosco