Wednesday, 18 June 2014


At the heart of every good movie is a good story. You can have the best actors, the best soundtrack and the best director, but all of these are pointless unless the story interests us and makes us feel. Thankfully, Nebraska has every single one of these. The result is a movie that has us crippled with laughter one minute, and the next having an existential crisis.

Nebraska tells the story of a father and son who travel 750 miles to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect the father’s $1million that he won through the mail. Armed with only the letter that the father, Woody, is convinced will earn him his fortune and the son’s, David’s, old Subaru, the pair set off. On the way the pair familiarise themselves with estranged family and Woody’s old hometown. As the secret gets out about Woody’s million, the town becomes interested in him again, leading to conflict, the revealing of secrets and the testing of relationships.

Nebraska is not your typical father-son movie. Rather than being boringly predictable and unoriginal, it deviates from what we expect and becomes something much more. It does this by creating a conflict of ideas. David always wants to go back home and Woody is always set on reaching Lincoln so he can buy his truck and air compressor to replace his old stolen one. The story that we see on screen only scratches the surface of these deep and complex characters.

David and Woody have both hit dead ends in their lives and desperately need to shake things up. We are only shown little elements of their lives outside of the story we see in the movie, which is an absolutely brilliant technique. We develop our own sense of who these characters are and their relationship together. Will Forte, perhaps best known for his small part on How I Met Your Mother as Randy Wharmpess, plays David brilliantly and proves that he is definitely one to watch. Meanwhile Bruce Dern gives the performance of his lifetime as Woody. All the way through it is difficult to see him as an actor, he adopts the part that well. A confused alcoholic is a common character but this portrayal is so heartbreakingly convincing that at times the pity we feel becomes unbearable. He makes this common archetype as unique as it was the first time it was ever seen.

Yet another reason to love this movie is the uniqueness and originality of it. Every scene is completely fresh. From searching for lost dentures on a railway track to stealing an air compressor, Nebraska makes use of the rolling and deserted hills by often creating a sense of lawlessness. Accompanying the barren locations is the lack of colour. Against the studios wishes it was filmed monochromatically. Personally, I think that this is the best decision made in regards to this movie. The lack of colour allows us to focus solely on the characters and story, rather than looking beyond and into the background.

The black and white reflects Woody’s character so well. In his hometown, we learn a lot about his past life and how full it was compared to now. At times it almost feels like we are going back in time to see what Woody used to be like and how he got to where he is now. We suddenly find ourselves wondering who is telling the truth and whether Woody really is the cold, old man we thought him to be.

Often is the case that Woody blends in to the background, allowing the supporting cast to take the reins. June Squibb and Stacy Keach both shine as the devil and angel on Woody’s shoulders while Bob Odenkirk provides comic relief. Amongst the rather poetic message of the movie are scenes that will have your stomach aching from laughter. At times the comedy seems out of place, often just thrown in every now and then because the opportunity arose rather than carefully placing it where it would be most effective.

Nebraska is a film that has everything. A beautiful story filled with characters that are easy to love and easy to hate that often clash in an explosion of wit and succinctness. Underneath the hard exterior and lessons on tough love is a movie that will leave you feeling upbeat with a positive outlook.

Nebraska gets a 4/5.


Jonny Naylor

Nebraska at CeX

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