Nebraska

Rating:

Flyover Movie

Main Cast: Bruce Dern, Will Forte

Director: Alexander Payne

I freely admit that I was not excited by a lot of the 2014 Oscar contenders, but I always feel obligated to see them.  Much to my very happy surprise, I ended up liking quite a few of them more than I expected – American Hustle, August: Osage County, Gravity, Philomena – all much better than anticipated.  Nebraska was one that I felt more neutral about, feeling sure that it would be pretty good but not excited enough to see it in the theater.  I am so glad I didn’t, because I’m already pissed enough that I wasted a Netflix DVD rental on it.  Because, my friends, it sucks.

Nebraska stars Bruce Dern as Woody Grant.  Woody is a senile old bastard who mistakes a sweepstakes con he received in the mail as a notification that he won a million dollars.  He’s determined to get to Lincoln, Nebraska, to claim his cash, come hell or high water.  He’ll walk if he has to.  His wife (June Squibb) is at her wit’s end, his sons (Will Forte and Bob Odenkirk) can’t talk sense into him and eventually Forte’s character, David, just gives in and agrees to drive him to Lincoln.  The movie is the story of their road trip.

Bruce Dern by Georges Biard

You deserve better, Bruce Dern. Photo by Georges Biard.

First off, I find director Alexander Payne pretentious and unamusing.  The black and white used to film this movie serves no purpose other than washing out every scene without ever making use of the deep contrasts that can make black and white effective as a storytelling tool.  He also seems to feel that he doesn’t need to give us any characters that we might genuinely like.  Woody is not just confused, he’s an asshole and likely always has been.  Dern does fine with what he’s given, but what he’s given is thin, boring crap.  I don’t think David is supposed to be cognitively disabled, but the blank look he wears most of the time combined with his insipid dialogue make it unclear.  June Squibb, who I have no doubt is a wonderful actress, is given the role of pure harpy, with so few redeeming features that I never cared for a moment if she was happy or miserable.  That’s not true – I frequently rooted for miserable.

None of these things are the fault of the actors – with a cast this talented, 100% lousy performances get blamed on the script and the director.  I don’t fault any of the cast for not turning out compelling characters from whole cloth and despite a director hell bent on telling his meager story at a snail’s pace, with stilted and phony sounding dialogue and one note characters.  Nebraska is just pale, slow, dull and depressing.

Overall, I didn’t like a single thing about Nebraska.  The actors had nothing on which to use their considerable combined talents (the peripheral actors were absolutely horrible – not a decent line delivered among them), the story was thin and never capitalized on the potential for familial discourse, and the entire production was slow, slow, slow.  In the end it was a boring waste of time and talent.  1 star out of 5 and no recommendation unless you’re into cinematic self-flagellation.

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