Saturday, November 30, 2013
Nebraska (2013)- Movie Review by Sean Wu
As a whole, Nebraska is one of the funniest films of 2013. Debut screenwriter Bob Nelson uses hilarious situations to his advantage, having his characters say the darndest things and having incredible stupidity, similar to what the Coens did to Minnesotans in Fargo. The best performer of Nelson's dialogue is June Squibb, a character actress that lit up the screen at age 84, and elicited a laughter in almost every scene she was in. She's certainly worthy of an Oscar nomination.
The film's true star, though, is Bruce Dern. Dern plays the geriatric mixed-up Woody Grant, an old feller that finds a million dollar sweepstakes message in the mail. He falls victim to what turns out to be a scam, and is tantalized by the prospect of money. He attempts many times to walk from his home in Billings, Montana, to the sweepstake offices in Lincoln, Nebraska.
What makes Dern's work so great is that it is a layered performance. On the outside, it seems basic, and Dern plays the straight man to June Squibb as his wife, throwing one-liner insults at him throughout the movie. On the inside, however, Dern is broken-hearted man, one who's life is filled with regret and saturated by booze. People in the movie that talk about Woody say that he was quiet, generous, and addicted to the bars. Under the wise direction of Alexander Payne, we get no flashbacks, and instead we have to trust the words of Bob Nelson.
Will Forte is Woody's son David, he volunteers to drive Woody out to Lincoln so Woody won't attempt walking anymore. Forte's part is not showy, it is pianissimo (despite the surname) to Dern's piano. Other stars include Stacy Keach as a friend of Woody looking for some of the cash, and Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul!) as David's older brother.
It may sound like I am singing my praises for Nebraska, but there are many things to praise about it. However, this film is not perfect, nowhere near it. This movie won't even make my year-end top 10, if that explains anything. It is mainly due to Bob Nelson's script. The dialogue is funny, but the structure is awkward and oddly paced. The worst offender though is repetitive exchanges in the movie, where it feels Nelson could not think of anyway to make his conversations interesting. It's a detriment to what Dern and Squibb contribute.
Nebraska is certainly a sweet film that is well acted and witty, but in the end it's just a disposable comedy. The hands of time, I think, will have this film faded away, a minor piece of Alexander Payne's expanding canon.