• A sweet road movie with a powerfully delivered theme about family and cherishing our time with those we love, Nebraska is rife with indie appeal.
  • The principle actors are all excellent. Bruce Dern is wonderful as Woody Grant, and it is obvious why he has received awards and nominations aplenty. Will Forte (David) and June Squibb (Kate) are equally compelling. Bob Odenkirk (Ross) is good, as well, especially because he shelves some of his comedic inclinations.
  • Many of the supporting performances, however, are lacking. Such uneven acting proves distracting and makes it more difficult to immerse in the film.
  • As does some of the dialogue. While much of Nebraska is beautifully scripted, some lines remove all subtlety by being too on point. When David speaks to the local newspaper editor, for instance, she says too much too quickly. It is a trend that recurs throughout the film.
  • Director Alexander Payne and Writer Bob Nelson are too skilled to let either flaw ruin their movie, however. Payne has always shown a knack for timing, and he does the same here, holding cuts and camera positions for perfect durations, always giving the viewer time to digest a scene or situation before changing the visual.
  • Similarly, he has actors perfectly time silence and stillness before speaking their next line. The scene in which Ed Peagram (Stacy Keach) corners David is a prime example. In almost every case, these choices fuel Nebraska’s humor and emotion.
  • This movie is very funny, even without resorting to cheap jokes about old age. The few times age fuels humor it does so with class, or to generate the viewer’s anger, pity and regret, as when one character asks if Woody has Alzheimer’s.
  • The characters are developed with enough depth that they work. Woody and David are extremely well realized, and no one else stands out as being problematically underdeveloped.
  • Nebraska’s score, composed by Robert Burger, compliments Payne’s direction, Nelson’s script and Phedon Papamichael’s cinematography perfectly. It sets a contemplative and whimsical tone.
  • The black and white palette does the same.
  • Yet, Nebraska is slowly paced, sometimes too slowly.
  • Of course, Payne doesn’t let that flaw ruin his movie either. Nebraska is another on the list of Alexander Payne successes.
  • Final Grade: B

7 thoughts on “Nebraska

    • Haven’t been able to see it yet. Thus far, it’s still on limited release and is only available in the Twin Cities at a single specialized, arthouse theater about twenty-five minutes from my house. Which wouldn’t be bad, except the theater in question is in the middle of party-scene central, thereby making parking a chore. When temperatures are sub-zero, I’m less keen on walking from wherever I park to the theater, especially late at night.

      But I will not be missing Llewyn Davis. I adore the Coens and can never get enough comedic Timberlake. As soon as it’s more widely available, I’ll be seeing it. 🙂

      • As I was saying in the other post, I rarely go to the movie theater because of my schedule, but I am so going to see this!! Yes I almost went this weekend, but like you said it is only playing in 2 theaters and I live in San Diego, which is ridiculous. They should give it some more screenings. I cant wait to see it, ok we have to talk once we watch it. 🙂

  1. In Alexander Payne we trust! He’s one of the most reliable filmmakers working in Hollywood at the moment and Nebraska is another winner for me.

  2. nice review JJ.

    I slightly disagree about telling info too easily . I think the whole scene with the newspaper woman was essential to giving us more of a background to Woody’s complex personality. I didn’t feel that it was rushed at all. I was actually hoping that they would explain more of it to us, but also agree that maybe certain information is better left to our imagination.

    Regarding the supporting performances, it also didn’t bother me because they all seemed salt of the earth type people and it isn’t essential for us to have them fleshed out more than they are.

    I think if there are flaws here, they are minor because it gives us some very well developed central characters along with excellent direction and visuals

    • Definitely agree that the flaws are minor – there’s just enough of them to drop this flick from an A grade to a B grade.

      I also agree on the purpose of some scenes. I think you’re right on the scene at the newspaper, for example. It is meant to give background on Woody – I’m just saying exposition can be delivered with nuance. And in this film, it isn’t. In this one, Payne hits us with a metaphorical hammer each time he gets expository. And, as far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t ring true to the way real people really talk.

      But I am not saying any of it makes Nebraska a bad movie. On balance, this is quite good and thoroughly entertaining.

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