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"NEBRASKA" is a father and son road trip, from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska that gets waylaid at a small town in central Nebraska, where the father grew up and has scores to settle. Told with deadpan humor and a unique visual style, it's ultimately the story of a son trying to get through to a father he doesn't understand. Written by
Director Alexander Payne "Sideways" (2004) and "About Schmidt" (2002) deftly handles the road-movie plot structure once again with dark humor and satirical depictions of contemporary American society, yielding fantastic results yet again, as a heartfelt journey to examine his frail and flawed characters. Payne himself is a Nebraska native who felt strongly that the movie be filmed black and white to capture the mood of the old American heartland, and in order for the film to receive funding from Paramount, he had to settle for a smaller budget. As a result, Payne films and casts the movie in local communities with actual residents which provides a realistic texture to the family bonding tale. "Nebraska" is a humorous and heart-rendering story of family, but it also sheds a light onto the people of America's heartland, and our countries economic, moral, and cultural decline.
"Nebraska" starts as a road movie, with a father and son traveling from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska. David (Will Forte) has decided to indulge his father Woody (Bruce Dern), who is struggling with dementia and thinks that he can pick up his $1 million in winnings from a magazine distributor in Lincoln. En route, they stop for the weekend in Hawthorne, Dern's hometown, where they're joined by his wife (June Squibb), and his other son (Bob Odenkirk) amidst your stereotypical Midwestern relatives and friends, all of whom are extremely interested to learn that there's now a millionaire before them.
The central relationship between Dern's stubbornly gullible dad and Forte's passively irritated son gradually deepens as the movie makes its way through middle America. What makes the film such a delight to watch are the individuality of its characters. Each one is fun to watch in their own right; the father's relentless determination, the mother's humorous outbursts, and the son's sympathy and desire to bond with his father. "Nebraska" reaches an emotional conclusion that echoes of "About Schmidt" and "The Descendants" (2011) with an underlying sense of lives largely squandered, but handled with grace and finesse that feels innately genuine. "Nebraska" is another finely tuned, superior slice of cinema crafted by Alexander Payne who achieves a more mature, sentimental tone than previous films. The all-around marvelous performances from the cast and supporting non-professional actors add an unmistakable authenticity to this slice of Americana.
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