Movie Review: Nebraska

STARRING: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacey Keach

WRITTEN BY: Bob Nelson

DIRECTED BY: Alexander Payne

This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I wasn’t really a fan of Nebraska. It surprised me, because I really have loved Alexander Payne’s previous works, namely Sideways and About Schmidt as standouts. This film I thought was uneven, drug in spots, and unfortunately featured some poor acting in minor roles that served to be distracting. I don’t know if Alexander Payne cast parts with local people, or what the deal was, but there were several parts that I felt were done by “community theatre” talent, instead of legitimate movie actors.

Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) has received a letter saying that he has won a million dollars. Of course, to all the levelheaded types out there, he’s obviously received a scam, but Woody believes it, and he embarks on a journey to get his money. His son, David (Will Forte) is tasked with the job of keeping his seemingly senile father safe. His mother (June Squibb), just can’t deal with it. Will Woody get his money?

Bruce Dern’s performance as the senile Woody is basically the only reason to watch the film. It’s the kind of career defining role that he’ll be remembered for. He’s perfectly senile. If you have ever had to deal with a loved one who you felt was slipping away, Woody will touch your soul. June Squibb is actually excellent as the long-suffering wife of Woody, who is just as spunky in her old age as you’d expect from a woman who has had to deal with Woody her whole life.

Then we come to Will Forte. I suppose I should applaud his ability to read the script in front of him, but there are moments of vacant looks from Forte that make me realize he’s not connecting with the material. It makes it hard to really appreciate his deviating from being funny, when he doesn’t seem to know what’s going on.

The whole film is basically Woody escaping and David catching him. It felt longer than it was. Bruce Dern’s performance can be appreciated in just a few scenes, and serves as the only reason I’d recommend watching this film. Otherwise, spotty acting, slow direction, and Forte’s performance make this film a struggle. Hopefully it won’t win Best Picture, because there were much better films this year.

FINAL GRADE: B-

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