Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review of NEBRASKA: An Ode to Old Age

February 19, 2014

Truth be told, I would probably never have watched this film if only based on the little I have heard about it at first. This film is about a very old man on a road trip with his son, probably fixing their relationship along the way. Certainly nothing new about that topic, and sounded like it would be a boring ride. Thankfully it was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, so I watched it. In return, I got rewarded with a most poetic and heartfelt film.

"Nebraska" is about Woody Grant, a senior citizen in Billings, Montana, already teetering in and out of senility. One day, he received one of those junk mail from a magazine company, announcing that he has won a million dollars. Despite admonitions from his family, Woody firmly believes he won, and wanted to go to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his prize. His son David was forced to make this long drive with his dad. As they make a stop in his dad's old hometown and gets reacquainted with their kin, David gets to know his dad more than he ever knew him before.

Reading my short synopsis alone does not do the whole film justice of course. This is an experience you need to immerse yourself into. OK, it is true that the "million dollar ticket" misunderstanding could have been explained more easily than what was shown on screen stretched out for almost two hours. But looking beyond that main flaw, the film itself turned out to be a thing of elegantly-told beauty. The crisp black-and-white cinematography and languid pace by Director Alexander Payne worked favorably in its favor.

Bruce Dern played Woody in a quiet, most touching, low key and realistic manner. He is certainly a dark horse in the Best Actor race. In contrast, June Squibb though steals her scenes as his tough, frank and cranky wife Kate. Her nomination for Best Supporting Actress is a fine recognition of this performance. Comedian Will Forte plays it straight here as David. We can identify with him as he tries his best to reconnect with his aging dad through this tough time. Stacy Keach plays as he usually plays, an effective villain in the person of an old bully neighbor.

This film is about folks in the heartland of America, but I guess characters like this exist everywhere on earth, and we can relate. We will all get touched by the time the ending comes. So well set-up, that ending! Made the whole film worth watching. I did not feel bored at all, despite my initial worry. This special film is engaging and involving, fully deserving of its Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor and Supporting Actress, and Best Cinematography. 9/10.

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