Running time: 115 minutes
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach
Who to see it with: Anyone with a slightly befuddled grandfather
In Nebraska, slightly senile Woody (Bruce Dern) is on a quest to get to Lincoln, Nebraska to cash an obvious scam sweepstakes check for a million dollars. Despite the urging of his family to drop it, his persistent attempts to go to Lincoln finally cause his son David (Will Forte) to agree to drive him so he can have one last hurrah. What starts as a simple trip soon becomes more complicated as various obstacles get in the duo's way. Some of these are the result of people finding out about Woody's supposed good fortune, and others are simply because of Woody's character. The first, most noticeable aspect of Nebraska is that the film is shot in black and white. This lends a classic, old-time feel to the movie that is helped along by some small touches, such as the vintage Paramount logo at the start of the movie, the relatively advanced age of the majority of the movie's cast, and the slow pace of the film. And in many of the dark scenes, the black and white helps to make the darkness that much more pronounced. But, the greyscale nature can at times be a negative, such as during shots of the American heartland that would have looked stunning in color (similar to shots from Promised Land) but don't have the same effect without it.
A film like this lives and dies by its characters, and luckily Nebraska has some really good ones. They're all very interesting and have unconventional motivations; maybe it's because it's based in the Midwest but I felt like it was fun to get a peek into a small town. The characters all have their quirks and some have a Wes Anderson-type feel to them. The writing is very good, with a dry, slow-paced, Americana-style humor. Many of the jokes are delivered perfectly and naturally. But, this delivery is a mixed bag, with Dern and Forte providing great performances, but many of the other cast members feeling unnatural and their speech too pronounced. The story also starts off slowly, picks up in the middle, but unfortunately drags towards the end. This movie is not meant to be a fast-paced movie, but it feels like the story grinds to a halt in the middle. Nebraska is a charming, interesting road-trip that unfortunately takes a little too long to get to the destination.