If you haven’t already, you are certain to hear these words fairly soon: “Bruce Dern gives the performance of a lifetime in ‘Nebraska!’”  (The reviled exclamation point is appropriate in this case—there’s no way to simply say the sentence; it must be exclaimed.)  What is to be hoped is that you don’t hear much more about the movie, because it must be seen to be unpeeled, layer by layer, without your even knowing that is what you are doing.

So nuanced and integral are the performances of the actors taking on the roles of the four members of the Grant family, and so subtle is the performance of Will Forte as Dern’s patience-of-a-saint son, that it seems the mind just naturally takes on the project of understanding what makes what’s going on so riveting.  This is just about all that can be said without spoiling the film, but there is one thing more . . . the most astounding revelation, and not at all a spoiler.

This is a movie as much about the woman of the house as the man who is the centerpiece of the story.  All too often, American films serve up the message underlined, italicized, and in bold type.  Not so in this courageously quiet project.  In Nebraska, the deep end of the pool is as placid as the shallow.  It is in the flatness of the plains that the contours of life and living in the same household appear.  And it is in looking at the very un-present man of the house that the woman of the family comes into stark relief.

In Nebraska we witness heroics emerge out of managing everyday duties.  In the midst of today’s cinematic bombardment of superheroes and pyrotechnic transformation, that is as amazing and magical as anything can be.




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  • Sheila Felberbaum December 16, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    The characters in Nebraska emerged from this film fully realized as individuals so authentic that I never felt I was watching actors. The story, the actors, the setting were amazing. It has stayed with me. A not to be missed film.

  • Shelley Singer December 15, 2013 at 11:11 am

    A spare and reverent post, as befits the landscape and the movie. There is another luminous performance by Angela McEwan as the local newspaper publisher and Woody’s girlfriend many years ago. I could not take my eyes off her.