Saturday, February 1, 2014

Nebraska, a movie review

It took a while for me to get around to seeing Nebraska. The trailers did not appeal to me: a black and white movie about an old man trying to get to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim the Million Dollars the letter he received in the mail said he had won. But, when all else has been seen and the film has been given a Best Picture nomination by the Academy then perhaps it is time to see it.

I had forgotten what a fine actor Bruce Dern is.  And, this film shows him at the top of his craft. Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is an old geezer with a love for booze who is short for words. Will Forte plays his son David who agrees to take him to Lincoln to claim his "Million Dollar Sweepstakes" only because David cannot convince him that the award letter is a sham. Woody is determined to get to Lincoln to claim his prize. 

It is the journey that makes up the story and like Woody, who is a man of few words, the dialogue in this film is carefully scripted. There are moments of silence that say so much. Although the movie has a serious tone, there are many well written humorous scenes. Dern is nominated for Best Actor and richly deserves the nod. His performance is powerful as a scruffy, bent, boozing old man who looks as if life has taken the best from him. 

June Squibb plays his wife, Kate, who at first comes off as a nagging spouse with nothing good to say. But as the film moves along, she becomes the color in the otherwise black and white. Her rich dialogue is frequented with a sailor's language and she tells it like it is, the good and the bad. Where as the majority of Woody's mid-western family and friends are plain spoken and polite, Kate takes no prisoners. She also richly deserves her Best Actress Nomination.

In addition to Woody, David, and Kate, there is a cast of characters to round out the story and make the trip to Lincoln, with a stop in his home town where he grew up, interesting and revealing. And, the black and white is very effective in telling the story of a man from a simple mid-western town. Although, a storm did not come, the house was not carried away, the witch did not die, and everything suddenly was not in color, they did reach Lincoln for Woody to turn in his letter to the sweepstakes office. 

There were winners. There always are in the eyes of the beholders. I recommend this film. It is 115 minutes of well made craft. And, while I'm not sure it is THE best film of the year, it is definitely among the best, and who knows may be a dark horse after all.

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