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Movie Review: Nebraska

NEBRASKAIn quite literally the most beautiful film of the year, Bruce Dern, Will Forte and June Squibb paint a lovingly brash family portrait of a film captured by modern auteur Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants). Each frame of this movie seems like an old time family photo that you would see flipping through your grandmother’s scrapbook at your latest family gathering. Sweet, tense, slightly uncomfortable and definitely full of good memories.

First off, for the type of film this was the cinematography and choice of filming in black and white was ingenious. It made each moment deeper with a rich emotion that made this movie different than any other feel good, charming family drama before. It also helped that Payne is a director that specializes in human emotion stories about loss, pain and above all, love.

His 2011 film, The Descendants, garnered recognition not just for the overall film but its direction, editing, screenplay and its lead acting by George Clooney. Descendants was yet another beautiful film encompassing a story of human loss and raw emotion, which has received glowing praise from both critics and audiences alike. Just wait for Nebraska to follow suit at the Oscars this March.

During an interview with Will Forte he said what surprised him about the film was how the script first read as a drama but then going back through it he realized all of the comedic moments. That is what gave him some confidence in playing the role, even though he figured from the start that he would not get the part (he described the role as a lottery ticket, meaning you go for it even though you know you wont “win”). He expressed a comfort in being able to relate to the character and being so comfortable with the script. Forte said that the part made him feel vulnerable as well, but he found ways to distance himself from the role so there was still a feeling of “acting”, such as wearing a moustache for the role.

If it was not for some stiff competition this year several aspects of this movie would be up for top prizes. Dern is already climbing up the ranks but has yet to beat out Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), but his seniority and this being his first substantial role in years is giving him a little bit of an edge. Also his wife in the film June Squibb (About Schmidt) has been receiving raves for her wonderfully twisted performance. She kills the audience with her one-liners, especially one show stopper where she finally tells off her greedy good for nothing relatives by deadpanning, “You can all go f*** yourselves.”

However, in my opinion, the best performance in the film was comedian Will Forte. It is such a unique turn for the usual gross out comedic actor by having a generally honest and true character.

NEBRASKAWhen asked about how the movie related to Forte’s personal life, he said how there were similarities, but his family is nothing like the one in the film. Overall, you can find pieces from your life and in his acting process he could make changes to connect more with the script itself.

At its heart Nebraska is just a story about a family coming together under very strange circumstances. The circumstances being how Dern’s character, Woody Grant, receives a letter from a magazine company stating how he has been selected to be in the running for a million dollar grand prize if he returns the letter to the publishing headquarters. However, he misreads the text and believes he already has won. This prompts him to unknowingly blurt out the story to several people who take it upon themselves to go after Woody and his money. They begin to claim that he owes them for past occurrences.

Forte’s character David Grant, son of Woody, goes with his father to claim the prize seeing an opportunity to spend some time with his aging father before it is too late. The journey strips them and their estranged relationship down to the bone and brings them and their family closer than they could have initially expected.

When Forte was asked about his favorite part of the entire process of Nebraska, he mentioned how working with Payne was a dream come true because of how hard he fought for the role (he competed against Bryan Cranston, Paul Rudd, Casey Affleck and Matthew Modine) and how he has long admired Payne’s work. They developed a real chemistry during their time together and became almost a real father son pair. They would share memories and drinks together in their downtime.

At the Q&A a man also brought up how in the film Forte and Dern go for long drives together and those moments reminded him of his own family. I asked Will what he thought about being a part of a film that could resonate with people in that way and he responded saying that that particular scene in the film is an emotional one for a lot of people. It was emotional for him because it was the last one that him and Dern shot.

The film is a touching and warming story that should and will hopefully be shared with loved ones for years to come.

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