Q: What’s the only thing more boring than Nebraska?
A: Nebraska in black and white.
Directed by: Alexander Payne
Produced by: Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa
Written by: Bob Nelson
Genre: Dramedy, Dark Comedy
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach
Oscar Nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Squibb), Best Actor (Dern), Best Director (Payne), Best Picture
Plot: Elderly Billings, Montana resident Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) lives his monotonous life with his wife, Kate (June Squibb) and his grown sons, stereo salesman David (Will Forte) and successful anchorman Ross (Breaking Bad‘s Bob Odenkirk). One day, Woody wins a $1 million sweepstakes he has won, which everyone around him tries, to no avail, to discourage him from going to Lincoln, Nebraska (THAT’S THE NAME OF THE MOVIE!!!) to collect on, because it’s obviously a scam.
This proves to be pointless, and after Woody is caught by his kids or the police trying to walk to Lincoln by himself, David decides to just humour him and drive him to frickin’ Nebraska. However, before going to the Star City, he stops in the little hick town where Woody and Kate grew up, the growing metropolis of Hawthorne, Nebraska.
In Hawthorne, Woody and David meet up with their family, who have all more or less retained their small town lifestyles, which apparently consist mainly of being old and staring blankly. They meet up with old friends and family, and, as is to be expected when you announce that you’re a new millionaire, some bloodsucking gold-diggers. With that, the wacky, senior citizen hijinks begin.
The story is about as original as (sort-of) road-trip comedies get, replacing the horny, beer-consuming teens with senile senior citizens, and actually being pretty deep, with many themes swirling around, such as forgiveness, death and parenthood. There’s a lot of emotions on display as well throughout the whole film, mainly sadness and feelings of loss, but with an underlying sweetness that really sold the movie for me (Along with June Squibb).
Did they have to make the movie so unabashedly boring though?
The title of the movie didn’t exactly suggest a gripping roller-coaster ride, but this movie has the tendency to be extremely slow. Sometimes, it worked with the humour and was tolerable. Other times, it was just mind-numbing. And as for the major stylistic choice to make the movie black and white, well, I kind of hated it. I understand that it was done to accentuate the mundane, somewhat depressing setting of Hawthorne, Nebraska, but I just found it pointless, and annoying to look at. Did they really have to try that hard to convince us that Nebraska is boring to look at?
Acting: Where Nebraska does excel, however, is the acting and the interactions between characters, especially the lead trifecta of Bruce Dern, Will Forte and June Squibb. I was not aware of any of their existences before this movie, and I’m kicking myself for it now. Dern is fantastic as the crotchety old boozehound that is Woody Grant, portraying not only a stubborn old man, but also a somewhat sad figure. Will Forte is pretty good as well as David, but June Squibb steals the show as Kate Grant, Woody’s mouthy wife. if a lesser actress had been cast in this role, this movie would probably have tumbled down to a six or so in my rankings, but Squibb (Awesome last name, by the way) brings a ton of energy to this part, and can be downright hilarious at times. It’s a shame that she had to go up against Lupita Nyong’o this year. Most other years would’ve been pretty good bets for June Squibb taking home the big prize.
The other actors do pretty damn fine jobs as well. Bonus points for having a Breaking Bad cast member in the mix.
What nominations did it deserve?:
- Best Cinematography: For all my ragging on Nebraska, it’s actually a very pretty state. Too bad it’s in black and white in this particular movie. Ugh. No to this nomination.
- Best Original Screenplay: I’d put it in the same boat as Gravity: It’s a good screenplay that moved the story along, but it probably shouldn’t have been nominated, although it was quite funny.
- Best Supporting Actress (Squibb): Hell yeah. June Squibb was epic in this movie. Too bad her competition was so tough though. Yes to the nomination, no to the win.
- Best Actor (Dern): It’s hard to argue with this one. Yes to the nomination, no to the win.
- Best Director (Alexander Payne): Nope. With all due respect to Alexander Payne (The Descendants is a fantastic movie, by the way) Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips) and especially Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club) were more deserving.
- Best Picture: It’s not a bad movie by any means, with good writing and great performances all around, but its’ slow pace and poor choice of colouring made this movie somewhat of an also-ran compared to the other movies on the ballot. A tentative yes to the nomination, and a hard definitely not on the win.
Overall Opinion: 7.5/10