Film Review: Nebraska (2013)

on Saturday, December 07, 2013
'Nebraska' (UK Release: 6 Dec '13) // Words: Saam Das

For a film whose cast is largely filled with senior citizens, 'Nebraska' is positively riotous. Director Alexander Payne has past form with leftfield humour including 1999's dark 'Election' and 2004's 'Sideways' but his latest effort arguably ups the ante. 'Nebraska' follows Woody (Bruce Dern) and his son (Will Forte) as they make their way from their home in Montana to Nebraska to claim a million dollar prize that Woody has supposedly received.

It's immediately obvious that the elderly Woody has certainly not won a million dollars, despite his continued insistence otherwise. His wife, Kate (June Squibb), and one of his sons (Bob Odenkirk) are less than impressed. However, Woody's other son David (Forte) decides to indulge his behaviour - suggesting that the necessary road trip to claim the prize would be a good way to spend some time with his ailing father.

The duo stop along the way to stay with family in Woody's hometown, later joined by June and David's brother, Ross. The tale of Woody's supposed prize becomes the biggest news in town, leading to tensions and hijinks both within their extended family and outside. It also leads to an expletive-filled barb from the gleefully crude Kate, which is surely one of 2013's finest and funniest cinematic moments.

The ending to 'Nebraska' may be relatively understated as reality sets in but it is the journey that delights - Payne delivering perhaps his most tender and charming film to date, thanks largely to Bob Nelson's script. The black and white cinematography may initially be off-putting but is soon forgotten, as we come to grips with the complexities and frustrations of familial relationships.

Payne is well loved by the Academy, with a string of Oscar nominations, and it is entirely possible that 'Nebraska' will continue this trend. Bruce Dern, in particular, looks set for a nomination, having won the Best Actor Award at Cannes earlier in the year. June Squibb is also deserving of an acting nomination but regardless of accolades, this pensioner-laden comedy will be one to savour for years to come.


'Nebraska' is out now in UK cinemas, through Paramount Pictures.

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