Nebraska

Nebraska

****

Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Another US contender provides some of the brightest sparks in this year’s Cannes Competition: Alexander Payne’s comic drama set in America’s heartland has distinct echoes of the work of Bob Rafelson and Hal Ashby and with its black and white photography overtones of The Last Picture Show.

The premise is deceptively simple: Woody, an ageing Montana resident played by the hypnotically watchable Bruce Dern, is sure he has won a million dollars in a sweepstake.

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The lure of the windfall prompts him to travel to the headquarters of the sweepstake organiser in Omaha to collect his winnings. Will Forte (from Saturday Night Live), playing his estranged son, agrees to go along for the ride, taking a detour to the small Nebraska town where his father was born.

Behind the surface simplicity of a father and son road trip lurks a sharp and bitter-sweet odyssey with a strong sense of satire that also reaches to emotional truths as the characters muse on the state of the nation and harbour regrets for times gone by.

Payne, the director of The Descendants, About Schmidt and Sideways and his writer Bob Nelson show a real affection towards their motley crew of eccentrics. As well as Dern there are strong contributions from Forte as the son and Stacy Keach as his long-term business Ed who gets wind of the cash – and sees it as a way of getting back money owed to him by Woody.

Crawling out of the woodwork come a whole legion of avaricious family members, bent on getting a slice of any action going. Greed is bad!

The monochrome photography, never an easy sell to backers, serves to enrich the material by anchoring it in the past while unfurling in the present.

Nebraska is destined for US release in November with a date for the UK still to be set.

Reviewed on: 24 May 2013
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An alcoholic father and his resentful son travel cross-country together to collect big sweepstake winnings.
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