2K DCP from Park Circus viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Alexander Payne), 15 Aug 2015.
Like The Descendants Nebraska is a road movie and a family saga. The token plot is a about taking a demented father to collect his million dollars from a mass mailing company in Lincoln. The actual subject is the son's journey of discovery into an unknown family history.
The father, Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is an alcoholic. During the key stop of the journey at Woody's home town Hawthorne the driver, the son David (Will Forte) learns something about his dad's background. Dad had fought in Korea and had been shot down. After that he transformed, and the drinking got bad. (Thus even Nebraska can be counted into what Anton Kaes has called shell-shock cinema). Woody has always been a nice and timid guy, used by others; finally he left Hawthorne. Before that the soft Woody had married the tough Kate (June Squibb). David learns to see even his mother in a new light. A revealing turning-point is a scene at Woody's family grave.
The main source of comedy is that the poor relatives at Hawthorne start to believe in Woody's being a millionaire, although David insists on every occasion that he is nothing of the kind. Everybody is already expecting to get his share. Here mom's tough manners sum it up pretty well: "You can all just go fuck yourselves".
The most poignant sequence is the visit to Woody's old homestead. "My dad built this place. I got whipped down here. The barn is still standing".
Nebraska is about waking up from illusions, but it is also about true family affection developing between father and son. In the final sequence David fulfills dad's dream about a pick-up truck and a compressor and leads the inhabitants of Hawthorne to believe that dad has actually become rich.
Where in The Descendants we were treated to lush and lavish colour views of an unknown Hawaii never before seen on film, Nebraska is visually the exact opposite: an arid black-and-white journey through the four states of Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Phedon Papamichael's cinematography is visually of the highest order, and each shot could be hanged on the wall.
Alexander Payne's strong documentary impulse is on display also here. The arid, anti-glamourous views are quietly unsettling.
There are no little children. The grown-up children are gaining weight while sitting glued in front of the television all day.
Nebraska is Alexander Payne's first film that has been shot digitally. The visual quality is ultra sharp. There is a sense of natures mortes in a literal way. The fine texture is on display. Although shot in wide open spaces, there is no sense of air. The digital quality here emphasises a sense of apathy and death.
It is a sign of the times that although Nebraska was released in Finland last year with a high profile, it is no longer accessible in Finland, and we had to book the DCP from England without subtitles. Movies, except Finnish ones, now usually disappear totally from the theatrical distribution in our country after a half a year after the premiere.
BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK OUR PROGRAM NOTE BASED ON TREVOR JOHNSTON