Nebraska (2013)

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8/10

Nebraska is one of the better films of 2013. If you’re in doubt whether you should see it, do so. It is a wonderful little movie and it would be a shame to miss it. Nebraska is a bittersweet and comedic character study of an old man named Woody P. Grant (Bruce Dern). Woody lives in Montana and is under the impression that he has won a million dollars. His ticket is however an advertisement, but Woody believes in it and is adamant on travelling to Lincoln, Nebraska, to collect his money.

Woody’s son David (Will Forte) and wife Kate (June Squibb) try to talk some sense into him about going to Nebraska, but Woody keeps slipping out of the house to walk away. David soon realizes that he can’t keep his father put, so he drives him to Lincoln. On the road, they pass through Woody’s old town, and as soon as his old pals hear that Woody has come to collect a million dollars, he becomes a local celebrity. Soon, the vultures are circling, and not all of his old acquaintances have good intentions (like Ed Pedram, played by the always sinister Stacy Keach).

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Nebraska is shot in black and white. At first I wondered why, but it soon becomes clear that Nebraska wants to show the old, dilapidated side of the flat fields of the US. It’s a place of past glories and little opportunities. A bit similar to this year’s Hell or High Water (2016), set in Texas. But Nebraska is populated by old people with long memories, and the film is a bit slower. And Woody may or may not believe that his million-dollar ticket is real. He just wants to feel successful for once in his life.

A great source of laughter is Woody’s wife Kate. Actress June Squibb steals the show with her endless nagging and her automatic dismissive attitude towards all of their old acquaintances. I guess she does love Woody, but calling him an idiot is the only way she knows how to communicate it. It is typical of Woody’s life. A man of few words and little left to go for. His son David (Will Forte) has enormous patience. He’s a good guy but a bit weak willed. Some scenes about his private life show what a wandering, complacent guy he is, much like his father.

The film ends on a high note. It’s more interested in giving us a comedic little tale than to investigate the dreary, hopeless countryside in which it takes place. I have no idea if Nebraska is really like this in real life. Maybe it is not, but for the story it had to be. It’s a straight story of simple desires and small victories, and indeed feels similar to the film The Straight Story (1999). Some great acting and low-key storytelling make for a calm, entertaining evening.

 

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