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    Film Review: Nebraska

    Film Review: Nebraska

    I don’t know about you, but me, I love a good road movie. But if you go and see this movie, and you definitely should, just don’t expect to find any coming of age teenagers screeching along Route 66 looking for shits and giggles whilst in search of the American Dream. This is more Straight Story than Kerouac. The opening sequence showing Bruce Dern’s character, Woody Grant, shuffling along the freeway informs the avid viewer that the pace of this masterpiece of understatement may well be slow, but the emotional depth it reaches will supersede the need for speed.

    The film follows Woody’s determination to collect the one million dollar prize money he’s convinced he’s won, as indicated in a personally addressed letter he has received as part of a national sweepstake from an office in Lincoln Nebraska, some 850 miles away and which no amount of haranguing from his wife (June Squibb, brilliant in a Shameless kind of way) and youngest son David (Will Forte) will deter him from trying to reach. Believing that he may be able to find an emotional bond with his father that has never previously existed and before it’s too late to do so, David decides to drive his father to Lincoln and our little adventure is off and running.

    The fact that director Payne has decided to shoot the film in black and white seems to emphasise the flat Nebraskan landscape which in turn acts as a reflection of the characters featureless inner lives. The script is sparse and with the exception of June Squibb, who has all the best comedic lines, all of the cast perform with a restraint that tends to highlight the emotional depth they reach from the performances, particularly Dern and Forte who are both exemplary. Unsurprising then that this film was nominated for the Palme D’or at Cannes and Dern left with the Best Actor award.

    But for me Nebraska is a film that ultimately deals with the gap between generations and how time helps us to forget that although we all have a many faceted personality our main over riding character traits, good or bad, tend to blot out the majority of them. For example, during the trip we learn of Woody’s softer side when we encounter some of his old lovers, a trait, which up to that point had been completely nullified by his cantankerous attitude to life. We also get to meet ex business partners, bothers and sisters and a whole series of road movie oddballs. But as I said at the top of this piece, this is a road movie, one that tells us that the Great American Dream of the 1950’s was dead and buried long ago to be replaced by greed for the American Dollar and a new pick-up truck. Although this film looks good and the Spartan acting superlative the message for me is how in a few shorts decades the dream has been sold to lack of empathy for the human condition, particularly amongst those that continued to advocate a dream over sixty years old which has long since started to unravel not only itself but the American culture that spawned it.

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      Selby's posts By Selby Strange
      @TheLowdownMag


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