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Nebraska (2013)

tomatometer

92

Average Rating: 8/10
Reviews Counted: 210
Fresh: 193 | Rotten: 17

Elegant in its simplicity and poetic in its message, Nebraska adds another stirringly resonant chapter to Alexander Payne's remarkable filmography.

96

Average Rating: 8.6/10
Critic Reviews: 45
Fresh: 43 | Rotten: 2

Elegant in its simplicity and poetic in its message, Nebraska adds another stirringly resonant chapter to Alexander Payne's remarkable filmography.

audience

84

liked it
Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 37,191

My Rating

Movie Info

Director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) takes the helm for this black and white road trip drama starring Bruce Dern as a tempestuous Missouri father who's convinced he's won a million dollar magazine sweepstakes, and Will Forte as the son who grudgingly agrees to drive him to Nebraska to claim his winnings. Bob Odenkirk and Stacy Keach costar. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

R,

Drama

Bob Nelson

Feb 25, 2014

$17.6M

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All Critics (210) | Top Critics (45) | Fresh (193) | Rotten (17) | DVD (1)

[Payne has] made an "American Gothic" for 21st-century, post-recession America. Who needs a pitchfork anyway, when you can have an ice cold bottle of Bud?

December 30, 2013 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An intimate road movie about one family that also lingers on the landscapes and fabric of an old-time, dying vision of the American Midwest

December 2, 2013 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

"Nebraska," it turns out, isn't as bleak as it first looks.

November 27, 2013 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A desolate comedy-drama about fathers, sons, life's highways and missed off-ramps.

November 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

"Nebraska" is a wonderful comedy shot in black-and-white and told in shades of gray.

November 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One of the best films of the year ...

November 26, 2013 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The sky extends forever across the flat land, never suggesting expanse, but lowering, confinement, pushing small, human figures to the ground.

April 5, 2014 Full Review Source: Newcity
Newcity

A surprisingly talented Will Forte plays the son of a cantankerous old drunk, the fascinating Bruce Dern, as he takes a road trip to claim a million-dollar sweepstakes prize that no one thinks he's won. This is Alexander Payne at the top of his game.

March 15, 2014 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

Accompanied by a sleepy music score from composer Mark Orton, Nebraska is another wonderful feature film from director Alexander Payne.

March 2, 2014 Full Review Source: ABC Radio Brisbane
ABC Radio Brisbane

Nebraska is undeniable; agonisingly hilarious, unyielding in its paternal love and devastatingly authentic to the ache of life closer to its end than the beginning.

March 1, 2014 Full Review Source: 2UE That Movie Show
2UE That Movie Show

There's a joyful tension that infuses every moment and makes this one of the most compelling, memorable, essential films of the year.

February 28, 2014 Full Review Source: Concrete Playground
Concrete Playground

If you see only one black and white film disguised as a road movie this year or next, make it Nebraska.

February 28, 2014 Full Review Source: sbs.com.au
sbs.com.au

Payne's most accomplished and emotionally affecting movie since his masterwork, About Schmidt (2002)

February 27, 2014 Full Review Source: Cinema Writer
Cinema Writer

It's funnier than some of the comedies I saw in 2013 but I prefer Payne's films when they're tragic and sad too.

February 25, 2014 Full Review Source: Impulse Gamer
Impulse Gamer

Veteran character actor Bruce Dern gets his day in court as the grizzled centrepiece of director Alexander Payne's artfully composed, beautifully filmed black-and-white dramedy about an old man, his dream and his withering, yet defiant sense of self.

February 23, 2014 Full Review Source: 3AW

Swiftly and smartly, Nebraska becomes an ode to small hopes, big leaps, and the texture of life in all its uncertainty and melancholy.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: FILMINK (Australia)
FILMINK (Australia)

It's exemplary business as usual for Nebraska, a beautiful, bittersweet comedy-drama.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Herald Sun (Australia)
Herald Sun (Australia)

No film aficionado should miss 'Nebraska.'

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Quad City Times (Davenport, IA)
Quad City Times (Davenport, IA)

There is a sentimental aspect to the concluding stages of the film: it's not as broad or astringent as Payne can be. But there's also something intriguingly dreamlike about its tone.

February 20, 2014 Full Review Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney Morning Herald

Alexander Payne is back in prime, prickly form with Nebraska, a marked improvement over his soggy, false-feeling melodrama The Descendants.

February 20, 2014 Full Review Source: Quickflix
Quickflix

In Payne films, as in the films of Jean Renoir, there are no "goodies" or "baddies"; everyone has their reasons, and that makes his work distinctly different from most mainstream American films these days.

February 18, 2014 Full Review Source: The Australian
The Australian

Nebraska is a rare delight of a film that harks back to a golden era of American cinema.

February 18, 2014 Full Review Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney Morning Herald

Alexander Payne proves the modest stories can be the most powerful

February 17, 2014 Full Review Source: The Popcorn Junkie
The Popcorn Junkie

A simple road trip that becomes something much bigger, much broader, and much deeper-a tale of fathers and sons and families and the many shades of grey in the wide spectrum of love.

February 17, 2014 Full Review Source: American Profile
American Profile

Full of little riches of observation, character and irony, Nebraska is a gem of a film from a master filmmaker

February 16, 2014 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

This is a beautiful film filled with melancholy, regret and longing and whose delicacy lingers

February 16, 2014 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Audience Reviews for Nebraska

Feel asleep on it the first time I turned it on, but happy I eventually powered through. Some great camera shots and a genuinely sweet feel makes it well worth road-tripping through the humble setting with the equally humble characters.
March 31, 2014
jarobb3

Super Reviewer

Well, it was interesting to watch. Not sure what all the raves are about. Very slow, but mildly charming in a way. Superb acting in a drab, and dreary story line. Typical kind of movie that critics love..
March 24, 2014
itsjustme2004

Super Reviewer

Nebraska is a slow burn, wryly-funny character study of understated proportions, highlighting Midwestern culture rarely given its big screen due. So, in essence, it's an Alexander Payne movie.

Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is an elderly man convinced he has won a million dollars and all he needs to do is travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim his loot. It's one of those mass mailings really meant to get people to buy magazine subscriptions, but Woody will not be stopped, sneaking out to walk all the way to Nebraska from his home in Billings, Montana. David (Will Forte) is in a rut himself. He's recently been dumped, his job is going nowhere, and his father refuses to accept his million dollars isn't real. There's a question of how lucid Woody is, and so to placate his old man, David decides to drive his father to pick up his winnings, to humor him before his mind may be gone for good.

Nebraska film stillDespite the overtly sitcom machinations of the inciting incident, which even the characters dismiss, the film is really a drama about the relationship between a father and son and the culmination of our life choices. Woody and David are not close by any conventional means but over the course of their road trip, David begins to see his father in a different light; the old wounds are not forgotten, but David is learning about who his father is through others. He's been so mad at his father for so long that it was the only identity he had for the man. Now in his deteriorating mental state and physical fragility, his father has a sense of vulnerability that brings about decidedly mixed emotions. In his fragile state, is he the same man or at least the same man David remembers? Then there are all the family revelations springing out from the situation. With a genuine millionaire in their midst, the family is coming out of the woodwork clamoring for their own pieces for all the unpaid assistance they've given Woody over the years. Initially, it makes Woody look like he's been stuck trying to find his footing his whole life, as we learn about the lingering post-traumatic stress effects from his war service. Was he lazy, undiagnosed PTSD, or, as another character surmises, too ashamed to say no when others asked for help, and so he was taken advantage of in the guise of assistance from unscrupulous friends and family. The question remains who is Woody?

This is one of those observational slice-of-life films, and your enjoyment of it will depend on your threshold for the taciturn types. These are the strong silent types who keep most of their feelings to themselves. There's a very funny sequence where Woody and his aged brothers have gathered around a TV, and to listen to the dry mostly car-related conversation bounce back and forth like a dead, floating wiffle ball, is a great comic moment but also a nice insight into an older generation and their communication. Given the perspective of the film, it's hard to deduce whether the plainspoken people are being satirized or whether it's a loving send-up of a specific culture. With Payne's involvement, I lean more on the affectionate tweaking rather than a mean-spirited ridiculing of small town folk and their small town ways. There are funny situations, like David and Ross teaming up for some misplaced justice, and there are characters more broadly drawn for laughs, particularly Woody's wife (June Squibb), but the overall interaction of the characters, their speaking vernacular, and how they viewed themselves, that is what made me laugh the most and appreciate the script. You feel like you're dropping in on these people's lives; every character feels like they could be a real person, not a stereotype. And boy does money really bring out the worst in people.

With Woody and his son visiting his old haunts, the movie inevitably becomes a reflection of a man taking stock of his life, regarding the choices he made and did not make. The pit stop in town opens up the character and David learns far more about his father, with old girlfriends, old business partners, and old rivals. What I appreciated further is that Nebraska doesn't try and soften Woody; he's not going to be some old curmudgeon who over the course of 90 minutes has his icy heart thaw and comes to realize the errors of his ways. Nope. Our views on the old man may soften when we get a fuller picture of who he is ad the life he's lead, but the man himself is the same. He's readily belittled, insulted, looked down upon, even by his own family members, especially his sassy wife. It's easy for him to retreat into alcohol and wonder what if. As the family picture broadens and becomes more clear, the film approaches simply yet touching revelations about the family and the nature of legacy. There's a father/son examination, but there's also the discussion of what to do when your parents become too ill to take care of themselves. It's not exactly The Savages, but there's a circling sense of burdensome decision-making that provides an extra level of pathos to the sitcom setup. By the end, Nebraska squeezes out some earned sentiment without losing its edge or sense of identity. There's a lot more going on then just some send-up of rubes.

20131110-DERN-slide-KFYJ-articleLargePeople have been raving about Dern (TV's Big Love, Django Unchained) ever since the film's Cannes premier, where the man earned top acting honors. The man deserves every positive words penned. He's simply fantastic. The character vacillates between outward hostility, spacing out, and general Midwestern emotional reserve, and Dern is able to sell you on every emotional beat without breaking character. He's unrepentant and demands to be taken for who he is, and his matter-of-fact bluntness has a certain charm to it, like when he admits to David that he never had any plans for kids. He just liked to "screw" and their mother was a Catholic ("You do the math"). I even appreciate that Woody would use the term "screw," which seems more appropriate. As a two-man show, it's a shame that Forte (TV's 30 Rock, The LEGO Movie) doesn't exhibit the dramatic chops to keep up with his onscreen pop. It's nice to see him attempt something so different but his limitations are too evident; it's just another gear that's not present. At no point would I call Forte's performance bad but he's just unable to keep up. Squibb (About Schmidt, Meet Joe Black) is a hoot though the character seems to be permanently stuck in "wacky" mode. She'll crack you up with her unrestrained commentary, but you may wonder if there's any more to this character than saying outrageous, curt comments.

This was the last Best Picture nominee I'd failed to catch up with, and while it's entertaining, funny, and unexpectedly touching thanks to terrific acting and a sharp script, but it also might be the weakest Alexander Payne film yet. This is the first film that the Oscar-winning director hasn't written himself. Bob Nelson's screenplay may never have even been glanced over by Payne had it not been for the state of its title (Payne's films general take place in Omaha). It's got Payne's stamp, as would any film he directs, but it also feels like it's missing something ephemeral, not to get too pretentious. This is a quality study of a cracked group of characters that, upon further review, aren't as cracked as we may think. They're just flawed people trying to get along as best they can. Even amidst the snide and antagonistic conversations, there's gentleness here about the value of family that resonates above the din of the shouting. By film's end, what started as a cockeyed sitcom transforms into a film that has more meaning and emotion, never betraying its guarded sense of self. When I say the weakest Payne film, this is not an insult but merely an observation. Even the weakest Alexander Payne film is going to be so much better than just about everything out there.

Nate's Grade: A-
March 16, 2014
boxman
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

Nebraska is a portrayal of looking back at one's choices, a comedic mosaic on the uncertainty of life. Bruce Dern deserves his Oscar nomination. But the film is ultimately pedestrian, predictable and distant. It was too dark to be a comedy and too light to be taken seriously. I didn't care for anything that happened, and the underlying themes failed to resonate like they should have.
March 9, 2014
MovieGeek13

Super Reviewer

    1. David Grant: Did you ever want to farm like your Dad?
    2. Woody Grant: I don't remember.
    – Submitted by Urmela O (38 days ago)
    1. David Grant: Did you ever want a farm like your dad?
    2. Woody Grant: I don't remember... and it doesn't matter.
    – Submitted by Abner H (50 days ago)
    1. Woody Grant: I haven't been drinking!
    2. Kate Grant: That's what you said on our first date!
    – Submitted by Abner H (50 days ago)
    1. David Grant: How did you and Mom end up getting married?
    2. Woody Grant: Oh, she wanted to.
    3. David Grant: And you didn't?
    4. Woody Grant: I figured, what the hell.
    5. David Grant: Were you ever sorry you married her?
    6. Woody Grant: All the time.
    – Submitted by Abner H (50 days ago)
    1. David Grant: So, you told the sheriff that you were walking to Nebraska?
    2. Woody Grant: That's right. To get my million dollars.
    – Submitted by Abner H (50 days ago)
    1. David Grant: How did she die?
    2. Kate Grant: She looked in the mirror and saw how ugly she was.
    – Submitted by Peter U (2 months ago)
View all quotes (11)

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