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BRUCE DERN IN ALEXANDER PAYNE'S 'NEBRASKA'

Bruce Dern and Will Forte waiting for mother in NEBRASKA
Will Forte has an interesting face, his mouth naturally curved to a frown. Not that his mellow, put-upon David Grant has much to celebrate: His girlfriend dumped him and his aged father Woody, played by veteran actor Bruce Dern, is bent on taking a trip from Montana to Nebraska after receiving a Mega Sweepstakes Marketing Prize in the mail. David knows it’s a scam to sell magazines, but Woody, a lifelong drinker, will make the trip if he has to walk… Not an easy task given his frail physical and mental status… Thankfully, David decides to give poor dad a ride.

Like director Alexander Payne’s SIDEWAYS and ABOUT SCHMIDT, this deadpan odyssey is a “road movie” fully epitomizing the genre, although most of the time’s spent sidetracked at Woody’s home town where his brother… and then later on, several brothers… aren’t much different in tone: passive and mundane “men of few words.” But Woody has a destination and the entire town thinks he’s a millionaire already...
Will Forte, Bruce Dern and Stacy Keach in NEBRASKA
Enter the chief antagonist played by Stacy Keach who, like Dern himself, is known for edgy roles during the 70’s and ‘80s… His laidback yet investigative Ed Pegram likes to drink and hang around the local tavern, and now there’s an agenda – he wants a payoff along with Woody’s family, particularly two fat oddball nephews straight out of the Coen Brothers universe.

David becomes a shadow on the wall during in-house family scenes, and his barroom conversations with Keach are reminiscent of George Clooney and Beau Bridges in THE DESCENDANTS, a polite, friendly tone obscuring an underlying rancor.
Bruce Dern, June Squibb, Will Forte and an unseen Bob Odenkirk visit Woody's childhood home
In a story replete with intentionally sparse characters, June Squibb is the obvious audience favorite as Woody’s sarcastic, foul-mouthed, hen-pecking wife Kate, stealing scenes not only because she has the funniest lines...

Like the rest of the cast, she's a complete natural, more realistic than your typical actress/actor playing down to cliché (but not condescending) small town mentality the director previously covered in ABOUT SCHMIDT (where June was Jack Nicholson's wife)...
"Have a drink with your old man... Be somebody."
In fact, NEBRASKA often feels like an extremely subtle art film satire, while the plush yet primitive B&W cinematography turns the titular state into a rustic hybrid of paradise and purgatory… Some of the best scenes are the scenery, taking place outside the window.

At first he's not that interesting but once you realize his fourth fiddle status to the location, journey, and especially his father, it all becomes perfectly clear: Like James Taylor in TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, another road movie where location exceeds character, Forte's an awkward yet ultimately wise choice opposite Bruce Dern... Although whiny, the passive son exists beneath dad's rhythm instead of playing loggerhead to his unnerving, unapologetic neurosis. David Grant seems to have given up long ago, and despite being the driver on this trip, he’s merely along for the ride.
Heading over to the next bar, the Blinker Inn
Meanwhile, the “man of the hour,” Bruce Dern… in a role one that garnered the Cannes Award and is (probably) destined for an Oscar nod… seems almost too authentic. The sporadic dialogue and a few blunt moments of passion aside, his expressions are what really matter…

Woody's a man who has kept everything inside while traces of a buried life seep out from his gentle, timeworn face, painfully etched with age and mileage but not without a faint glimmer of hope, no matter how unavailing and desperately futile: therein lies the mystery and adventure of NEBRASKA.
Bruce Dern and Will Forte take in the sites of NEBRASKA and here's a bonus interview selection...
Actress Missy Dotty on working with Alexander Payne, twice
MISSY DOTTY: Working with Alexander is a dream for any actor... because he's an actor's director...

What I mean by that is he lets you do your work and gently guides you so that he can let the camera discover the character as it comes to life... Much like an audience member watching the characters come to life on screen.  


Working on SIDEWAYS was so much fun... the whole crew, production team, cast... we all felt like family. And it's highly known that Alexander is loyal to anyone who works with him, so walking onto the set of NEBRASKA, it was like coming home... Comfortable and welcoming.
Will Forte, Missy Doty and a supercool framed Grateful Dead poster
Alexander Payne, Cult Film Freak's favorite director as of late, directing Bruce Dern in NEBRASKA
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