Thursday, January 2, 2014

Film Review: NEBRASKA

Finally, a family worse than mine! Mom's driving, and she's a pistol.
How nice that on the first day of a new year, which was yesterday in case you are still hung over, I actually had a good time. In part this was due to seeing a wonderful movie called "Nebraska." Starring Bruce Dern, Will Forte and a cast of ordinary people you would never look at twice, it's the kind of simulated cinema verite where nothing ever really happens and yet you want it to go on forever, just watching the lives of strangers hypnotically unfold. You're interested, and at the same time happy you aren't them.

Shot in black and white, the desolate scenery moves across the screen like an animated Ansel Adams portfolio. Huge landscapes of farmland and sky, empty save for fluffy clouds, black cows and the long, winding two-lane highway the hapless protagonists follow on their sad adventure are punctuated by battered storefronts and darkened taverns in small towns that have seen better days.

Dern plays an old man in bad shape, both mentally and physically, who is convinced he has won a million dollars in one of those Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes. He sets out on foot from Billings, Montana to claim his prize, which he wrongly believes is waiting for him in Lincoln, Nebraska. Since he is barely able to walk to the bathroom, this idea is clearly preposterous. His son offers to drive him, just to have some time with the old man. The characters they encounter on the way are a cantankerous lot, offering a cold stare into the depressing lives of people who are definitely not you. And really, isn't that what movies are for?

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