Black-and-white film 'Nebraska' a colorful tale
In “Nebraska,” writer-director Alexander Payne (“The Descendants,” “Sideways”) returns to his home turf for his smallest, most intimate film yet. It is also one of his most moving.
Shot by cinematographer Phedon Papamichael and filled with wide black-and-white vistas of Midwestern flatlands and desolated farms, the movie has a longing melancholy that leavens the humor — it's a surprisingly sad, gentle comedy.
“Nebraska” evokes 1970s-era character studies. Bruce Dern stars as Woody, an aging alcoholic who is hellbent on walking from Billings, Mo., to Lincoln, Neb., to collect a $1 million sweepstakes prize he received in the mail. Everyone tells him the letter is junk, simply a scam to trick people into subscribing to magazines. But Woody is nearing the end of his life with little to show for it other than two estranged sons David (Will Forte) and Ross (Bob Odenkirk) and a furious wife (June Squibb) who resents having put up with his drunken ways their entire marriage. Woody's mind is also starting to fade: He says he wants to buy a truck with his winnings, and an air compressor. He will not be deterred from his quest.
So, David, newly dumped by his girlfriend, agrees to drive his dad to collect his prize. “Nebraska,” which was written by first-timer Bob Nelson, is yet another variation on the kind of road movie that Payne excels at making. We know father and son will get to know each other better during their journey, but how and why that connection happens is surprising.
Dern, a veteran actor too often taken for granted, is so good at portraying this shambling, regretful, cantankerous man that his performance is a revelation — you feel like you're seeing him for the first time. Forte, a former “Saturday Night Live” cast member best known for his “MacGruber” skits, uses restraint and subtlety to portray a man having to rethink everything he had always believed about his father, whom he had written off as an unreliable drunk. And Squibb nearly steals the movie as a hilariously cantankerous woman whose constant angry whinings and complaints are a sign of her deep love of her family.
Like many of Payne's previous films, “Nebraska” will be accused of being condescending and misanthropic in spots, getting cheap laughs at the expense of cartoonish characters.
Payne remains a deeply humanist filmmaker: He loves people no matter their flaws, and he once again conveys that sympathy through a beautiful, haunting movie.
Rene Rodriguez is a staff writer for The Miami Herald.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Foreign influx in Allegheny County at ‘tipping point’
- Pleasant Hills Night Out event marks 21 years
- Elizabeth’s Riverfest is a family oriented event
- Century Town Homes residents, Clairton officials frustrated
- Steelers hope group of low-budget cornerbacks can deliver
- Former Gateway coach Smith is ‘perfect fit’ for Penn State football staff
- Steelers WR Wheaton wants to produce after injury-plagued rookie year
- Steelers notebook: Ben believes rookie WR Bryant can contribute
- Inside the ropes: Roethlisberger may have his big receiver
- Construction of $500M power plant in South Huntingdon stalled
- Pirates notebook: Hurdle, Huntington on same page