Nebraska is a road movie in glorious black and white. It’s like Harry and Tontowithout the cat, Sidewayswithout the wine, or About Schmidtwithout the RV and the Dear Ndugu letters. The tell here is the last two films both of which were directed by Alexander Paynewho has returned to his home state in his latest picture. Payne is usually what Hollywood insists on calling a hyphenate but this time the script is by Bob Nelson and it’s squarely in Payne’s wheelhouse and he knocks it out of the park.
Nebraska is a comic drama (I hate the term dramedy as much as hyphenate) that centers on Woody Grant, an elderly, forgetful alcoholic played by Bruce Dern. He is convinced, incorrectly, that he’s won a million dollars so his son David (Will Forte) decides to humor him and go on a road trip to Lincoln, Nebraska from the family home in Billings, Montany.
The majority of the father-son misadventures occur in Woody’s hometown of Hawthorne, Nebraska. It’s a tired, worn out burg but it has two count em two taverns, which are infinitely livelier hanging out at Woody’s brother’s house. There are some amazing scenes wherein a group of flannel clad men watch football whilst barely speaking. Holy taciturn Midwesterners, Batman. The chattiest character in the movie is June Squibb as Kate Grant, Woody’s cranky and long suffering wife. She steals every scene she’s in and has some of the funniest lines in the picture.
My favorite scenes, however, involve Stacy Keach as Ed Pegram, Woody’s former business partner. Keach is 73 years old and is still an intimidating presence. There’s an amazing scene in a karaoke bar restroom where Keach tries to shake down Will Forte for money the latter’s dad allegedly owed him. I’m glad to report that Stacy Keach is still a badass. It might be time for a Mike Hammer revival, y’all.
Nebraska is nipping at the heels of American Hustle as my favorite film of 2013. Payne’s use of the black and white pallet is reminiscent of The Last Picture Show and that’s high praise indeed. I give Nebraska an A. As a bonus, it reminded me of the Springsteen albumand gave me this John Hiatt earworm: