Sunday, December 08, 2013

Nebraska Is A State of Mind...

...and "Nebraska" is also a really good movie from director Alexander Payne and writer Bob Nelson.  Yes, it's WGA "screener season" again, my chance to catch up on some great movies from the comfort of the couch. Yes, back cover of screener DVD box, I understand that movies are meant to be seen on the big screen... now leave me alone!  Get off my lawn!

Which is sort of the tenor of Nebraska... Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, an elderly, verging-on-Alzheimers fellow who becomes convinced he's won a million dollar Publisher's Cleaning House-type sweepstakes.  But he needs to get from his home in Billings Montana to the sweepstakes office in Lincoln Nebraska to collect it.  Woody's wife and adult kids know it's a scam, but finally his son David (Will Forte) takes pity and humors Woody by giving him a lift.

It's a pretty classic set-up for some father/son road-trip bonding, but Woody makes Wilson the volleyball look like a chatterbox. So that doesn't exactly work out.  Then a pit stop in Woody's hometown leads to encounters with family and old friends who actually believe the million dollar story, leading to new adventures in greed and avarice.

Nebraska the movie is less about big laughs (though there are a couple) and more about those knowing smiles of recognition. Awkward family encounters, pointed silences, secrets unwittingly (or maliciously) revealed... twist those moments one way and they're tragic, twist them just a little the other and you have this movie.  Writer Bob Nelson has an ear for awkward dialogue and a great comic sense of timing.  There's a bit involving an air compressor (!) that is pretty darn funny.  And believe me, people have tried to make air compressors funny before!

You need to settle in for this one, let the moody black and white photography draw you in, but once you're there, Dern is amazing as Woody and June Squibb as his long suffering (but hardly passive) wife Kate is great, too. Good stuff!



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