(directed by Alexander Payne, 2013)
****+ (out of 5)
* * *
> Oh yeah. Da kine. Alexander Payne is a class act.
. From what I hear from others who have seen NEBRASKA, I liked it better than most. I loved every scene. I loved the look of the film, the dialogue, the mood, the crisp, articulated acting. I expected Bruce Dern to be wonderful- and he was. But Will Forte was a revelation. Will achieved something that, for me- fellow “comic” Robin Williams rarely did: he managed to completely wipe that smirk off his face. In this subtle, realistic performance, I saw almost no trace of the funnyman who really made me laugh convulsively on Saturday Night Live. Congratulations to Mr. Payne for having the insight to see beyond the typecasting and even consider him for the role. Mr. Forte interacts seamlessly and naturalistically with the truly great and exceedingly crusty Bruce Dern, who absolutely deserved the Oscar recognition he received. This role was just the pinnacle of Mr. Dern’s considerable career. Every look, every (carefully parsed) word, every mumble, every pause was perfectly-calibrated and absolutely enchanting. It is a spot-on perfect performance that worked in every frame of this plaintive, surprisingly funny film.
. Being a man who takes people at face value, when Bruce Dern’s taciturn old curmudgeon gets a form letter from a magazine subscription company saying he’d won a million dollars, he can’t seem to grasp the reality that it’s bogus- and all there in the small print: He had won the phantom million dollars if the serial number on the letter matched the winning number. Unfortunately, locals catch wind of this confused old man’s mistaken notion that he is a new millionaire, and not seeing his creeping senility, they believe the fantasy, and begin making plans as to how they will spend his windfall. Particularly odious, is his old business partner, effectively played by a well-cast Stacy Keach at his most oily and vile. Rounding out the cast: Bob Odenkirk (familiar to all as shyster lawyer Saul Goodman on TV’s stellar Breaking Bad) and in an Oscar nominated turn, character actress June Squibb as his crusty, long-suffering wife, who is really quite good in every scene, and hysterically funny in the scene where she flashes the grave of an old flame taunting him with cries of: “You could have had this!”
. Shot on black-and-white film stock, it’s a choice that perfectly reveals the nature of the land- a landscape that plays a major role here. (It’s right there in the title.) The soundtrack is wonderfully evocative and adds greatly to the wistful tone that this perfect little film marinades in, delightfully. Mr. Payne also deserved this Oscar nod, for crafting another minor-key gem that is so perfect it will stand the test of time.
> 100 years from now, NEBRASKA will still be a great film.
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