Written by / 1/31/2014 / 1 Comment / , , , , , , , ,

BRUCE DERN & WILL FORTE IN ALEXANDER PAYNE'S 'NEBRASKA'

Alexander Payne's directs Bruce Dern and Will Forte in NEBRASKA Year: 2013
Will Forte has an interesting face, his mouth naturally curved to a frown. His character David Grant has very little to celebrate: His girlfriend dumped him and his 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 gimmick to sell magazines, but Woody, a lifelong drinker with rudimentary signs of dementia, keeps physically threatening to walk the impossible distance… Not an easy task of course, especially given his frail physical and mental status making even a hundred yards difficult… Thankfully, David decides to give poor dad a ride...
Rance Howard and Will Forte flank Bruce Dern and a lotta old men from NEBRASKA
Like director Alexander Payne’s SIDEWAYS and ABOUT SCHMIDT, this deadpan odyssey is a “road movie” epitomizing that niche; although most of the time’s spent sidetracked at Woody’s NEBRASKA hometown of Hawthorne...

This is where most of the story takes place; and his brother (Rance Howard) — 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 with Bruce Dern and Stacy Keach in Alexander Payne's NEBRASKA Rating: ****
Enter initially subtle antagonist Stacy Keach who, like Dern himself, is known for and reveled in edgy, borderline insane guy roles during the 1970’s and 1980s… His laidback yet investigative Ed Pegram also likes to drink and hang around the local tavern, and now there’s an agenda — he wants a payoff and Woody’s family wants some too; particularly two fat oddball nephews straight out of the Coen Brothers' quirky 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 polite-for-a-financial-purpose Beau Bridges as his cousin in Payne's previous film, 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 (perhaps too obvious, forced) as Woody’s sarcastic, foul-mouthed, hen-pecking wife Kate, stealing scenes mostly because she has the funniest lines, and is a breath of fresh air from the monotone surrounding her presence...

She seems 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)...
Gorgeous yet sparse scenery from the movie and the location of NEBRASKA
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 Woody's passenger seat window...

In Will Forte's case, he initially doesn't seem up to the job (his successful brother's played by Bob Odenkirk and might've fared better)... A comedy actor, his deadpan often seems somewhat reached for instead of naturally holding back...
 Bruce Dern and Will Forte at the dead dive of two NEBRASKA bars
But (after a recommended second, third or fourth viewings) once you realize his fourth fiddle status to the location, and the overall journey, and especially to his father... it becomes more clear...

Forte's an awkward yet ultimately wise choice opposite Dern, existing beneath the father's jangily rhythm instead of playing loggerhead to his unnerving, unapologetic neurosis. His David Grant seems to have given up long ago; and despite being the driver on this trip, he’s merely along for the ride.
Bruce Dern and Will Forte in NEBRASKA
Meanwhile, the “man of the hour,” Bruce Dern (nominated for an Oscar) seems almost too authentic. The sporadic dialogue and a few blunt moments of passion aside, his expressions are what really matter…

Old Woody's a man who's kept everything inside while traces of a buried life seep out from his gently confused, 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 Alexander Payne's NEBRASKA.
Missy Dotty in NEBRASKA who had played Cammi the Waitress in Payne's SIDEWAYS
MISSY DOTTY: Working with Alexander is a dream for any actor... because he's an actor's director...
And 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.
Missy Dotty as Cammi in Sideways turned black and white so to fit the non-color scheme of Nebraska
And Alexander Payne himself (resembling Richard Gere's kangaroo) directing Bruce Dern for Nebraska
Bruce Dern and Will Forte as father and son in Alexander Payne's NEBRASKA
Bruce Dern plays father to Will Forte as son in Alexander Payne's NEBRASKA Year: 2013
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