Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Film review: NEBRASKA

Directed by Alexander Payne


Apparently there are people who will find this just depressing. And you can’t blame those people, they have every reason and right to be depressed. Nebraska is black and white, slow, awkward, not especially eventful. How exactly could it not become a critics’ darling nominated for every award in America and elsewhere?

You won’t be depressed if you appreciate good filmmaking. Nebraska is when understated becomes impressive, when slightly oddball becomes extremely moving. My advice would be to get into the groove of this thing, especially if you are new to Alexander Payne’s world. However, if you’ve been here since Election (what a great, great film), the only distinct difference would be the monochrome colouring of Nebraska.

But just consider how natural it is, Alexander Payne making a film in black and white. The aesthetics are the same, and it’s humour through pain and awkwardness and understatement. The world you see is very real, and just the tiniest bit farcical. Which might be the bit that makes Payne’s style so interesting and so unique in the first place.  

The premise is very simple. Woody Grant, a delusional and disillusioned old man, thinks he won a $1 million sweepstakes prize and wants to claim it by getting to Lincoln, Nebraska. Basically – on foot. His son, another local loser (Payne does them well), is weak-willed and tender-hearted to the extent that he gives in to the hopeless whim and agrees to drive them both to their vague destination. At some point Nebraska becomes something of a road film, with distant and not-so-distant echoes of his past works, Sideways and especially About Schmidt

While not much happens throughout the film, I absolutely refuse to view it as some sort of intellectual tax you have to pay to the world of art. Nebraska isn’t boring; it has too much humour and warmth to be boring. 

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