A lot of exciting news has been coming out of Cannes this past week (especially if you’re an Alejandro Jodorowsky fan), but today was the big day for “Nebraska.”
The film directed by Alexander Payne, shot in northeast Nebraska and written by Bob Nelson, who has ties to this area, had its premiere.
I’m pleased to see the reviews are generally positive, and I’ve rounded up a handful of them for your perusal.
A strong sense of a vanishing past holds sway over an illusory future in Nebraska, Alexander Payne’s wryly poignant and potent comic drama about the bereft state of things in America’s oft-vaunted heartland. Echoing the director’s most recent film, The Descendants, in its preoccupation with generational issues within families, how the smell of money contaminates the behavior of friends and relatives and the way Wasps hide and disclose secrets, this is nonetheless a more melancholy, less boisterous work. It’s also defined commercially by the difference between a colorful, Hawaii-set comedy starring George Clooney and a black-and-white, prairie-based old-age odyssey featuring a straggly and unkempt Bruce Dern. All the same, Paramount Vantage should be able to ride accolades for this very fine Cannes competition entry to respectable specialized returns in fall release.
Owen Gleiberman with Entertainment Weekly calls “Nebraska” “minor Payne” and adds:
And what’s genuinely touching about the movie is this: It allows you to glimpse the powerful entirety of even the most ordinary life. After a while, Woody’s wife shows up, and in her quarrelsome way, she’s kind of a wacky character (I mean that in both good and bad ways), a Catholic who’s fixated on gossip and the behavior of “sluts.” June Squibb, who plays her, has a great Midwestern-mom look, and we realize that it’s her Kate who has really held their lives together. Nebraska is a nice movie, and it goes through its paces in that patented Alexander Payne mode of acerbically touching homespun quirkiness. But when I just wrote that sentence, at least a part of me was tempted to replace the word “mode” with “formula.”
Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian gives it four out of five stars and says:
Dern gives a terrific performance as the blank-faced, disagreeable old Woody, who also has a bland, complaisant side. This emerges when he comes face-to-face with his old buddy and two-faced former business partner Ed Pegram, sharply played by Stacy Keach, who is grasping and credulous on the subject of Woody’s new riches. What is incidentally interesting about Nebraska is that the fiction of Woody’s lottery payout is almost as good as the non-existent fact. Bogus riches bring Woody acclaim, status, prestige. As for the cash, all he can think of to buy is a new truck. The money wouldn’t change his life. But fantasy money really has changed it, and in pursuing this fake cash, he has forced a real crisis, and forced his family to confront some real facts.
Along with these hard truths, the movie has a soft heart. Perhaps punches are being pulled, just a little. It doesn’t stop Nebraska from being a thoroughly sweet and charming movie, and a reminder of Dern’s quality as an actor.
Derek Malcolm at the London Evening Standard gives it four stars:
Bob Nelson’s scenario is full of humour but doesn’t patronise Woody and his hick friends. Dern, one of America’s best veterans, gets a chance to deliver the kind of performance he’s often been noted for. No grandstanding, but a thorough appreciation of the character he is playing.
Robbie Collin at The Telegraph gives it four out of five stars (and was not a big fan of “The Descendants”):
This is a resounding return to form for Payne: there are moments that recall his earlier road movies About Schmidt and Sideways, but it has a wistful, shuffling, grizzly-bearish rhythm all of its own.
“Nebraska” is release in the U.S. on Nov. 22.