Nebraska is a slow developing yet poignant drama-comedy about aging, familial relationships and looking at the past. It’s not quite as good as Payne’s previous works like Sideways, but well worth watching especially for the performances from Bruce Dern who is absolutely incredible and Will Forte, working well off of Dern.
Genre(s): Drama, Comedy
Paramount | R – 114 min. – $39.99 | February 25, 2014
THE MOVIE – 4.0/5
Since Alexander Payne came onto the scene in 1999 with the dark comedy Election, he’s directed some of the better drama-comedies two of which are on my all-time favorites list — About Schmidt and Sideways — ever since often times with more than a touch of sentimentality and at the end a perfectly pleasurable experience. And the same holds true with Nebraska, a road trip adventure about aging, family and the father-son bond.
The film opens with an old man named Woody Grant (BRUCE DERN) walking along the freeway and is approached by state police where he’s taken to the hospital. Woody reveals to his younger son, David (WILL FORTE), that he has won $1 million dollars and needs to get to Lincoln, Nebraska in order to claim the prize. David tries to tell him it’s a scam but Woody refuses to budge. At home, Woody’s wife Kate (JUNE SQUIBB) has had enough and the elder son Ross (BOB ODENKIRK) fails at trying to convince his dad there is no prize.
Still determined to collect the money, David agrees to drive Woody to Nebraska will a stop-over at Woody’s old hometown to visit a quirky set of relatives including his own brother whom he hasn’t seen in years. This also allows David to learn more about his father’s young adulthood. While it is smooth sailing when in town, word gets around that Woody is set to collect the money and now everybody comes out of the woodwork including Woody’s old business partner (STACY KEACH) who believes he’s owed money.
We get to spend time with the family, with Kate and Ross joining, including Uncle Ray (RANCE HOWARD), Aunt Martha (MARY LOUISE WILSON) and a couple chubby cousins who we later discover are thugs for a certain action they take. Others in the family make their way to the home and tempers flare as each one wants a piece of the non-existent pie.
There’s a bit more with the Grant family exploring the town, and receiving a royal welcome, and David learns more about his normally quiet father like a childhood sweetheart he almost married and even mother Kate gets some fun little scenes, one in particular at a graveyard. It’s a trip down memory lane and in keeping with the theme of growing old and the bad (and good) that comes with it. There’s also a sweet scene with the normally griping couple that is fantastic showing that both Dern and Squibb deserved their Oscar nods.
Director Alexander Payne presents a poignant drama-comedy led by two amazing performances from Bruce Dern and, surprisingly enough in some ways, Will Forte considering his background is comedy with “Saturday Night Live” and stint gag roles on “Conan”. Back to Dern, he really is fantastic in a role and playing a character that doesn’t say a whole lot and yet his eyes, often sorrowful, do the talking for him. It’s truly fantastic to watch him in every scene.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.75/5
This release comes with semi-glossy slip cover. Inside is a standard DVD Copy and a Digital HD copy for either UltraViolet or for download via iTunes.
The solo feature is The Making of Nebraska (28:50; HD) featurette, delving into some behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew as they talk about the movie’s origins, characters and other bits of into.
VIDEO – 5.0/5
Shot digitally and, from what I read, artificially converted to black and white, Paramount takes a trip to Nebraska on Blu-ray presented in its original 2.35 widescreen aspect ratio and 1080p high-definition transfer. The starkness of the B&W is brilliant while the detail levels are excellent and looks amazing even, or especially, because of the lack of color.
AUDIO – 3.75/5
For whatever reason, though probably for the same reason the film is in B&W, we get a 3 channel DTS-HD Master Audio track. For a movie like this, it’s OK since it’s mostly dialogue anyway, but it’s hardly dynamic or noteworthy. If Payne wanted to capture the feel of old cinema, he seemed to have succeeded.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, Nebraska is a slow developing yet poignant drama-comedy about aging, familial relationships and looking at the past. It’s not quite as good as Payne’s previous works like Sideways, but well worth watching especially for the performances from Bruce Dern who is absolutely incredible and Will Forte, working well off of Dern. The Blu-ray released by Paramount is sadly thin on features but the video is brilliant looking and unique (at least for modern movies) 3.0 channel HD track is adequate.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.