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'Nebraska' review: Father and son, the past untold

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Alexander Payne has received critical praise for his realistic, deceptively simple films which explore the lives of middle-aged men, most successfully with “The Descendants.” Continuing his mark, Payne presents “Nebraska,” a father-son drama rich with realism and composed of the things unsaid between family members.

Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) regularly faces confusion and absent-mindedness, so when he receives a letter in the mail notifying him that he has won one million dollars and sets out to walk from Montana to Nebraska, his family and local police keep him on watch. Faced with his father’s stubborn persistence and a need to please him, Woody’s younger son, David (Will Forte), offers to drive Woody to Nebraska, much to his mother’s (June Squibb) dismay. On their journey, Woody’s alcoholism diverts them to staging an impromptu family reunion in a little farming town they haven’t visited in decades. Faced with friends and enemies from Woody’s past all keen to hear about the money, David learns there’s more to his father than alcoholism.

Bob Nelson wrote a lovely, sometimes sparse screenplay for “Nebraska.” The dialogue is authentic and fun, especially the humorous lines from mother Kate (Squibb). The realism conveyed resonates and creates relatable characters. Nelson’s characters are matched with ideal talent that brings them to life; “Nebraska” relies on Bruce Dern, Will Forte, and June Squibb to nostalgically invoke a dream of the future that has become the present.

Generations and time passed help express this father-son drama. Beautiful black-and-white photography sets the nostalgic tone for Woody’s tale. David realizes he knows so little about his father and even his grandfather. With only glimpses of the past, the audience, like David, receives an image of Woody’s life, and we cannot help but feel for him. “Nebraska” is a touching generational story of a father and son learning to appreciate each other while delighting in road trip shenanigans, an entertaining but warm film for all audiences.

Rating for “Nebraska:” A

For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.

“Nebraska” is only playing in one theatre in Columbus, AMC Lennox, but will hopefully expand as the award season nears. For showtimes, click here.


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