Nebraska stars Bruce Dern as the dementia suffering Woody. An alcoholic who annoys his family with the belief that he’s won a million dollars from a magazine sweepstakes. I know what everyone must be thinking. How can a black and white movie in 2013, starring eternal character actor Bruce Dern and the guy from SNL that played MacGruber have so much awards buzz? It’s a very simple answer. Nebraska is one of the most relatable films of the last tens years with its depiction of small town life and the family drama that many people deal with.
Bruce Dern’s Woody is tough to gaze upon in Nebraska. Not because of his scraggly hair or his hobbled shuffle as he tries to walk to Lincoln, Nebraska. Woody is hard to watch because we’ve all been there when our loved ones begin to deteriorate mentally. Dern does a magnificent job portraying Woody as a 4-year-old trapped in an old man’s body who doesn’t know better and has no filter with his thoughts. Woody will make you laugh with his blunt answers, but you will feel bad after thinking about your own life dealing with socially degenerating family members.
Dern’s not the only one who deserves praise for their acting in Nebraska. SNL alum Will Forte has a breakthrough dramatic role as Woody’s under achieving son David. David is a sweet guy who always gives his boozy father a pass at the end of each day, no matter how much it hurts his growth as a man. Forte gives a heartfelt performance and makes me utter a phrase I never thought I would say. The guy from MacGruber deserves to be nominated for an Oscar. Forte is the real deal in Nebraska. I praise director Alexander Payne for this casting choice.
The most pleasant surprise in Nebraska was the amount of laughs in a depressing tale of Midwest life. Most of those uncomfortable and mean-spirited laughs come from the scene stealing June Squibb as Woody’s ball breaking wife Kate. Squibb is flat-out hilarious as the gossiping know it all wife who is very similar to the aunties, mothers and grandmothers of the world that inhabit the kitchen during family reunions. This is without a doubt the role of Squibb’s career. As much as I loved the dynamic between Dern and Forte, Squibb turns in the most memorable performance of the film. Nebraska won’t be for the Transformers crowd, but if you appreciate a great character study. Nebraska is a must see during this award season, even with its melancholy tone.
Overall, I give Nebraska 3 out of 4 stars.
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