One of the greatest pastimes of the cinema is the road trip movie. Often littered with too many characters and having to do with a love story at its conclusion, the best of these films are hard to find in the past several years. However, if there is one thing, and there are many, that Alexander Payne is good at, is giving his audience a poignant drive-by film.
His latest film, “Nebraska,” which is nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, centers around a father and son who set off to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim one million dollars in prize money. The movie stars the incredibly likeble Bruce Dern as the almost too cranky Woody, whom receives the letter in the mail that starts the journey. His son David, in one of his first serious dramatic roles, is portrayed by Will Forte with a calm brilliance that brings new meaning to the term subtle.
Payne chronicles their journey through the use of pulchritudinous long shots, letting the actors play out their movements as if on a theatre stage. Shot in black and white, Phedon Papamichael, the cinematographer, creates a sense of dream and memory with each composition.
Dern received a Best Actor nomination, which is a deserved nod but unlikely win when put side by side with his competitors. His wife Kate, played with comic ferocity by June Squibb encompasses the definition of a scene stealer. She also garnered a nomination this year, but will also most likely take a backseat to either Lupita N’yongo or America’s sweetheart, Jennifer Lawrence.
Refreshingly, the film takes it time. It basks in the small moments while allowing the bigger moments to become more gut wrenching.
Though nothing new has been done, it’s a fresh take with a wonderful cast. Whenever a film allows you to take a glimpse at yourself and your family through the transformation of these actors while under the pen of first time writer Bob Nelson (nominated for Best Original Screenplay), it’s a journey each of us needs to ride.
“Nebraska” is currently in limited release around the United States.