Less is more. No matter what anyone tells you, when it comes to telling a story on the screen, less will always be more. What does that exactly mean? Well, movies today usually suffer from a very peculiar problem called “there is too much stuff going on”. This is a clearly apparent issue in most major blockbuster films and is creeping its way to the indie genre, Alexander Payne’s heartfelt and personable story “Nebraska” takes a step away from this trend. “Nebraska” tells a simple yet focused story about family and personal distance that it excels from its uncomplicated approach. Sensitive and grounded, “Nebraska” benefits from such a reserved style and forward characters, even if the script falls into cliché territory from time to time.
“Nebraska” tells the story of the elderly Woody Grant (portrayed in absolutely fine form by screen legend Bruce Dern) and his aspiration to collect his one million dollars “promised” to him by an ad mailed by a generic insurance company. Woody’s son David (played by Will Forte) sees the lack of legitimacy and tries to bring his dad back home despite Woody’s numerous on-foot attempts to travel from Montana to Nebraska in order to collect his prize. The rest of Woody’s family, including his disapproving yet loving wife and his other son, are on different sides of the fence regarding Woody and his quest to claim his shady prize.
As it very well should be, this is truly Bruce Dern’s show. On a personal note, the fact that the Academy didn’t nominate him for his performance in this is complete nonsense. The way he gives life to the character of Woody Grant is just so fantastic and simultaneously deep and simplistic makes for a memorable performance. Second to Dern comes June Squibb, who portrays Woody’s wife, Kate Grant. She plays the part in such an expected and refreshing way, it’s quite surprising! Seeing Will Forte step out of his comfort zone to play a more dramatic part rather than a comedic one was nice, and I hope he keeps taking steps forward. Some background characters are portrayed a bit lazily and don’t bring anything worthwhile to the table, but these are the only weak links in the cast.
Perhaps the biggest factor in this film that makes it stand out during awards season is how it’s presented entirely in black and white. It’s such an interesting way to supplement to subject and it works so naturally. That was certainly a right move by Alexander Payne. Payne really directs the actors well here, and carries a consistent tone and vision. But the element that I think really makes the film move so well is the score, provided by Mark Orton. The score is just so simple yet effective and consistent it’s just so great. It’s one of the most memorable and well-used film scores used in the 2013 film season. The thing that drags the film down from reaching amazing heights is its script. Written by Bob Nelson, the script is populated with some cliché and awkward lines which are thankfully saved by the cast of the film, but are noticeable nonetheless.
As I pleaded before, less is always more when it comes to making a movie. This movie uses a simple plot with simple characters to effectively put forward a deep and heartfelt story. Simple does not mean one-note or basic, in this case it means focused which is what really makes this movie work and stand out from the rest. Considering the weaknesses in the script and the background cast. It’s a refreshingly structured piece, and enjoyable to the more laid back and committed moviegoer.
Montclair State | New Jersey