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    Saturday movie review: 'Nebraska'

    Charming NEBRASKA sneaks up on you then firmly lodges itself in your heart. Not Nebraska the state, but NEBRASKA the low-key, low-color — no color, in fact — film currently garnering kudos from critics across the country.

    I had the opportunity to screen NEBRASKA at the Life@50+ Conference in October as part of the Movies For Grownups film series from AARP. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the black-and-white film from Alexander Payne and starring Bruce Dern. I was happy to give it a shot, though, considering it was, well, from Alexander Payne (of SIDEWAYS and THE DESCENDANTS fame) and starring Bruce Dern.

    I'm so glad I did.

    From the opening scenes on through the ending credits, my affection for NEBRASKA steadily grew deeper and more undeniable. Right away I found myself uttering a quiet heh, heh at the wacky actions of and interactions between characters. My responses soon grew into an Awww... here and a guffaw there. By film's end, I exclaimed — inside to myself, as I'd viewed it alone — "Man, I love that movie..." and looked forward to seeing it again with Jim when it opened in theaters at home.

    NEBRASKA is the story of Woody, a cantankerous and possibly delusional fella who receives a letter stating he's won a million dollars. Problem is, Woody lives in Billings, Montana, 750 miles from the sweepstakes office in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he must pick up his prize in person. His son David, played by Will Forte, reluctantly agrees to drive his frustrating and distant father to claim his winnings — much to the chagrin of his mother Kate, brilliantly played by June Squibb.

    The father-son road trip takes Woody and David through Woody's home town, where some well-meaning — and some not so well-meaning — friends and family members take Woody to task over his unexpected good fortune. Along the way, David gains a new understanding of his relentlessly unapproachable and disapproving father.

    What I loved most about the film: The love and loathing between father and son, husband and wife is all tangled up in the story in deadpan yet realistic and heart-rending ways. It's impossible to not be exasperated by nearly every character at various times yet equally touched by the tender moments underscoring their motives and actions — or inaction.

    The themes of adult children looking anew at elderly parents and elderly parents taking a hard look at themselves resonated for me, made me consider the sometimes confounding actions and back stories of my own parents.

    And I loved seeing Bob Odenkirk (Saul from "Breaking Bad") perfectly executing the part of Woody's other son, brother to Will Forte.

    Speaking of Will Forte, I initially thought I'd simply have to overlook the casting of him as Woody's son, for I was never a fan of Forte on "Saturday Night Live." Surprisingly though, it took just a few scenes for me to be thoroughly impressed with his subtle and touching performance.

    All the performances are spectacular — in understated ways. NEBRASKA itself is an understated film that seems to move most viewers in magnificent ways. Accolades from the press are innumerable, and NEBRASKA has so far earned 47 nominations — and 22 wins — in several major award categories, from Cannes to the Golden Globes and more.

    NEBRASKA (rated R for some language) is now playing in select theaters. Find out more on the official NEBRASKA website.

    Today's question:

    What are your thoughts on Nebraska — the film or the state?

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    Reader Comments (10)

    Unfortunately, I haven't yet seen the film or visited the I have no thoughts on Nebraska.

    However, I'd like to do both someday.

    December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNonnieKelly

    First, I didn't realize Bruce Dern, as well as myself, had become old enough to play an old curmudgeon but, there he is in the trailer, being just that.

    I don't really know anything about the state but, from your review, I;d sure love to see the movie.

    December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

    I always thought Nebraska, like Kansas, would be really boring to drive through. And I was never a big fan of the University of Nebraska Cornhusker football team...but the movie looks pretty good! Thanks for sharing.

    December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie E.

    SO has anyone been to Nebraska?! Not me either! The movie does look good and I really like Bruce Dern -- ever since Silent Running. Definitely seeing this one. Thanks!~ Happy Saturday!

    December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGrandma Kc

    Lisa, Nebraska is one of the few states I have not been to. However you gave me a good reason to finally try Red Box and rent this movie. After 7 years with Netflix we canceled when we went on our cruise in August and haven't seen a movie since. Nebraska may be a reason to start watching movies again.

    December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Fowler

    Thanks for a thoughtfully written review, Lisa. I' m planning in seeing the movie very soon. By the way, I' m hoping that Bruce Dern looks better out of character.

    December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda brock

    Thanks for the review, Lisa. It's on my "must see" list, and now I'm glad it is.

    You have become quite the movie reviewer! And I am so happy about that.

    December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCathy

    I haven't seen the film but will watch our independent film theater here for it. Enjoyed the trailer. I HAVE driven through Nebraska more than once. It seems the kind of state one drives through. And I always think of sunflowers when I think of Nebraska. But then, that's probably Kansas.

    Anyway - it's flat. And beautiful.

    December 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

    I better go see this movie!!!!

    December 28, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterchristine

    I truly believe you'll all really enjoy this movie. And Belinda, yes, Bruce Dern does look better out of character (I'm pretty sure!). :-D

    I have been to Nebraska... many times, as that's where my two youngest daughters went to college (a private college just west of Lincoln). Many, many weekends were spent driving the seven hours there to watch soccer games (Andie was the goalkeeper on the college team) or just visit. And then there were the graduations (Ann: You went with us to one of them!). Plus, Megan met her hubby there and my grandsons' other grandparents live there. Nebraska's on okay state... though I must admit I like Nebraska the movie far better than Nebraska the state.

    December 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLisa @ Grandma's Briefs
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