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Nebraska: Thoughtfully wrought and built to last

Bruce Dern in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska.

Title
Nebraska
Written by
Bob Nelson
Directed by
Alexander Payne
Starring
Bruce Dern, Will Forte
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2013

While lacking some of the boisterousness of Alexander Payne's recent work, Nebraska is well-tuned to its characters, a grumpy, alcoholic Korean War vet (a fine Bruce Dern) and his hang-dog son David (Will Forte), who agrees to drive him 850 miles to pick up an improbable million-dollar magazine publishing prize.

Shot in black-and-white to suggest a Depression-era view of the American heartland, the story begins in Billings, Mont., where David, a sad-sack bachelor and home-theatre salesman, gets a call after his dad is picked up by the police, walking on the highway.

What follows is a road trip ending up as a small-town family reunion, where the possible imminent millionaire becomes everyone's friend or target.

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Some of the comedy (echoing Preston Sturges's Hail the Conquering Hero) is oversilly, but there's a poignant suggestion of a modern-day Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and it works in a thoughtfully wrought film that feels more built to last than Payne's last feature, The Descendants.

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About the Author
Film critic

Liam Lacey is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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