Review: ‘Nebraska’ (M) ****

Nebraska film stillWRITER Bob Nelson’s first feature gave director Alexander Payne wonderful material to transform into a film of powerful sensitivity, perceptive humour, a strong and engaging underlying dramatic thread, a dramatis personae crying out for, and getting, great players, and reasons to record beautiful black-and-white images of America’s Great Plains.

The cops in Billings, Montana, take Woody (Bruce Dern) home after finding him trudging along a wintry roadside. Woody has received a letter telling him he has won a million dollars which he can collect at an address in Lincoln, Nebraska. He doesn’t see the fine print.

Although well aware that the letter is a scam, Woody’s son David (Will Forte) agrees to drive him the 1000+ miles to Lincoln. They break the drive to visit one of Woody’s brothers in a rural Nebraska town. The news of good fortune, tinged with envy, venality, flashes around the townsfolk. Reminiscences reshaped by the intervening decades form a delightful carpet over which Payne’s minimalist style propels the film with credible simplicity.

As Woody’s former business partner seeking reimbursement of long-ago loans, Stacy Keach is the closest to a villain. Delivering sharp, pungent lines with brio and wisdom, octogenarian June Squibb as Woody’s wife, keeper of secrets, a lioness protecting her family, a voice (often profane) of homespun reason, is one of the film’s many nominees at the coming Oscars. She deserves to win the Supporting Actress class!

At Capitol 6, Palace Electric and Dendy

 

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