Awards SeasonFilmReview

Nebraska is an Awards Season Dark Horse

Griffin Thomas Conlogue ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Editor

Alexander Payne has done it again with his new film; Nebraska, starring Will Forte and Bruce Dern.  He has seemingly mastered the art of the dark comedy, providing another compelling look at a little seen part of American culture.  This interesting portrait of small town America is at times a hilarious comedy, and at other points a very serious drama.  The plot of Nebraska involves a son and his alcoholic father traveling to the titular state in order to retrieve the 1 million dollar prize that the father believes he has won.  Much of the film takes place in the father’s hometown, where he comes across many old friends and relatives, some of whom he owns money.

Much of the film feels very dramatic.  Unlike the film in which it was shot on, the genre that it is a part of is not so black and white.  This is one of the funniest and most honest films of the year, and everyone will find a way to connect to the characters in the film.  With the film tackling such dramatic and serious content such as memory loss from age and alcoholism, it is at times jarring to find yourself laughing so hard.  A big part of the film working as well it does comes down to an amazing performance by the legendary Bruce Dern (Coming Home, The Great Gatsby) as the alcoholic father, Woody Grant.

Bruce Dern, Stacy Keach and Will Forte in Nebraska.
Bruce Dern, Stacy Keach and Will Forte in Nebraska.

Dern’s performance won him the Best Actor award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.  He will also be looked at as an Oscar favorite as we inch closer to this year’s awards season.  He brings much of the comedy to the film in the oddly aloof Woody, but is also the main driving force of the dramatic elements as well.  Though he may have less screen time than Will Forte, he is no doubt the star of the story.  The cast is also made up of other noteworthy character actors like June Squibb, Stacy Keach, and Bob Odenkirk.  Stacy Keach’s performance as Woody’s sleazy childhood friend is particularly fantastic.  These are masters of the trade at work, and it is clear that Alexander Payne made the right decisions in his casting.

Will Forte has quite the breakout performance in the film as well.  Known more for his work on Saturday Night Live and the 2010 film MacGruber, he shows pain and emotion that he had never had to show so far in any of his prior films.  Coming out of his comfort zone, Forte gave the strongest performance of his young career.  Expect much more to come from his in the near future.

Grade: A-

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