Reel Reviews: Slow pace doesn't deter from Nebraska

Woody (played by Oscar nominated actor Bruce Dern) and his son David (Will Forte) take a road trip across the American Prairies in Nebraska.   - Paramount Vantage
Woody (played by Oscar nominated actor Bruce Dern) and his son David (Will Forte) take a road trip across the American Prairies in Nebraska.
— image credit: Paramount Vantage

Elderly and booze addled, Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is determined to travel from Montana to Nebraska to claim what he believes is a million dollar sweepstakes prize, even if he has to walk.

Tired of having to collect his father off the side of the highway, David Grant (Will Forte) agrees to take him to collect his non-prize, if for no other reason than to spend some time getting to know his estranged father on a road trip through America’s flatlands.

We say, “Nebraska is like spending a lazy Sunday afternoon driving with your grandpa.”

TAYLOR: It’s black and white. It’s bleak. It moves forward at the rocking pace of on old man asleep on the porch swing, yet Nebraska is refreshing and real. While at its heart it is a character study, it also becomes a commentary about a slice of Americana coming to an end.

These people inhabit tumbleweed ghost towns in big sky country. Highlights of a typical day might include witnessing a car go by, if you’re lucky maybe that car will stop, buy a Budweiser and tell you how long they’ve been driving.

HOWE: I’m glad it was filmed in black and white. Some of the scenes of the landscape looked amazing filmed this way. If it had been filmed in colour, I don’t think you would get the feeling of life in small American towns with faltering economies and ageing populations.

TAYLOR: Nebraska is a road movie where half of the participants fell asleep.

Woody is a washed up, slightly confused old man who just wants to come to the end of his life feeling like somebody who has accomplished something, or at least can still contribute. He is unable to recognize the successes his sons represent. As such, it’s sort of a character study with an unwilling participant.

HOWE: I wasn’t that impressed with Forte. He gave no emotion to his character: no smiling, no happiness, no anger, nothing. I don’t know if he was meant to play his role of David like that or if he is just a bad actor, either way it was torturous to watch him. He just seems to plod through life at a snail pace just like the car he drives.

TAYLOR: He was hardly torturous. I know Forte from being a fan of Saturday Night Live. He’s never been one to hide behind a veil of subtlety. I can’t really defend his acting. There were moments that felt a little off, but on the whole, I think Forte did all right being a low-key character.

I didn’t have any problem believing any aspect of Nebraska. It’s steeped in a reality that I found extremely appreciable. However, while the film is an unusually comfortable experience, the things I enjoyed most about it were the black and white shots of that giant sky.

I think many people will correctly judge this film to be slow and boring, simultaneously missing the point that it’s supposed to be. It’s very different than any movie we’ve reviewed.

– Taylor gives Nebraska 4 pickups out of 5.

– Howe gives it 3 vultures out of 5.

The film is currently showing at the Towne Cinema in Vernon.

Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are film reviewers based in Vernon, B.C.

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