Nebraska (15)

Directed by Alexander Payne
FACT, Liverpool
From 6th December 2013

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

"Increased inequality pose a fundamental threat to the American dream, our way of life and what we stand for around the globe." Barack Obama in a speech delivered on 4 December 2013.

There was no indication of the American dream in this film, more like the American nightmare.

Set in the Mid West of the States the film is shot in an arresting widescreen melancholic monochrome, appropriately enough given its subject matter.

There is little optimism in this part of the world, where the recession has really kicked in and left folks with little future to look forward to.

But grizzled old-timer Woody Grant, impressively played by 77-year-old Bruce Dern, he of Silent Running fame and a welter of other movies, proves the exception, even if he is completely misguided.

He thinks he has won $1m in a magazine marketing competition, and although family and friends try to tell him it is a complete scam, he refuses to pay heed to them. It gives him hope in what is a befuddled wreck of a life.

Pigheaded Woody will claim his prize in Lincoln, the capital of Nebraska, no matter what they say.

His son David (Will Forte) finally agrees to drive him there, with the film depicting their encounters with people his dad used to know in times past when he lived in Hawthorne near Lincoln.

There are some acutely observed scenes along the way, particularly when they visit Mount Rushmore, the bar Woody used to frequent, his old workplace and notably when, along with his wife, they visited a cemetery to pay respects to former friends and colleagues.

But his missus, Kate Grant (June Squibb), a cantankerous, battle-axe of a woman, appals her son with her bitter memories of some of the people lying in the earth. He can't believe his eyes when she lifts the front of her skirt to her waist and bawls at one of the plots "Look what you missed!"

Squibb is the stand out performer among the many virtuoso performances on show in the film.

Special mention also goes to Stacy Keach, in the role of the slimeball Ed Pegram, who makes out he is devoted to Woody but only wants a slice of his money. It's hard to believe but Keach once appeared in a Cheech And Chong film!

Despite a lot of Nebraska being shot in the open countryside - there are several alluring landscape shots - there is an all pervasive feeling of suffocation. These people, despite travelling many hundreds of miles cannot release the shackles which entrap them. They, along with the others they encounter along the way, are trapped in their insignificant lives....... So much for the dream!

Mores the pity the track by God Speed You Black Emperor 'The Dead Flag Blues' was not part of the soundtrack. How apt it would have been to have included it.

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Comment left by Colin Serjent on 3rd January, 2014 at 14:14
Nebraska was processed in grainy black and white (the crisp digital image has been degraded to approximate arcane monochrome celluloid).