Nebraska is the third film of Alexander Payne that I’ve seen. The first was Sideways which is an enjoyable film which really focused on having realistic, flawed characters. And while I liked Sideways well enough, I really loved The Descendants which felt very genuine and grounded in a certain realism, while also being immensely watchable. Now that I’ve seen Nebraska, I can confidently declare that Payne is one of the best directors working today.
Nebraska is a story about looking back at your life as you get older. Its a subtle theme despite being omnipresent in the film because its dealt with in a very non-cliche way. There’s no grand speeches about coming face to face with your past, just small looks or a few sentences now and then to help you understand what Woody is going through just a little bit.
This movie feels very authentic in its core family dynamics. Woody, David and the rest feel like they are real people going through this small period of drama in their lives. That’s what makes Payne as great as he is. He is able to just tell a story very simply but can pull you in to it so intimately. And Nebraska certainly does that. You get absurdist conversations between this aging family about things like what cars people drives, and they are both funny and say something about the characters.
And speaking of funny, this movie had me laugh a lot. Any conversations between Woody and his wife and children usually had me in hysterics, and the air compressor scene made it difficult for me to stop. June Squib was hilarious as the bitchy wife who spoke very harshly but plainly. Will Forte played it pretty straight was sank right into his character. However Bruce Dern was the show stealer, and likely should have won the Oscar last year. His Woody was a quiet character, but when he did speak it was so clever in just how much he felt like an old man any one of us may know.
I am very happy I watched this film. Its brilliant. 9/10