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.