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Mitchell's Top 20 Films of 2013: #10 "Nebraska"

"Nebraska" (2013)
"Nebraska" (2013)
Paramount Vantage

10. “Nebraska” - Director Alexander Payne’s dark comedy - about a downtrodden 70-something drunk (Bruce Dern) who believes he won a million dollars - trudges through small town America and dredges up family dysfunction and bad decisions at nearly every turn on its winding road into the past.

Dern is fantastic as Woody, a miserable alcoholic.

His overgrown white locks are constantly disheveled like Dr. Emmett Brown’s wild hair in “Back to the Future” (1985), and he barely recognizes the events right in front of his face.

On the other hand, Woody can find a local tavern stocked with domestic beer quicker than you can say, “Budweiser!”

He is also bizarrely focused on collecting his money in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Comedian Will Forte takes a surprising dramatic turn as his emotionally beaten-down son, David, but June Squibb gives the most memorable performance as Woody’s argumentative wife, Kate.

Every line Kate (Squibb) speaks is pure cinematic and comedic gold.

Her frank assessment of the stupidity surrounding her physical being is spot on, but not necessarily needed (or welcomed) to be repeated.

David is well aware of the family’s history of mistakes, but learns much more during this trip between Billings, MT, Hawthorne, NE and Lincoln, NE.

Even though Woody rarely helped his son growing up - and did more than a fair amount to emotionally stunt him - David attempts to drive his dad to Lincoln anyway.

It is supposed to be a father-son bonding trip, but it rarely bears fruit for their relationship.

Their excursion across the quiet midwestern plains does however look at life in sometimes hilarious and sometimes tragic ways.

Payne offers subtle mentions of physical abuse, war and boredom along with dozens of examples of alcoholism, and we see how they formed Woody’s current state of mind.

Through a satirical camera lens, performances and script, it communicates so many brutally honest lessons on the human condition, and plenty of threads of truth run throughout this great American picture.

Follow me on Twitter: @MitchFilmCritic

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