I don’t want to put Nebraska down too much. I “liked” it as far as it goes, but so much of it is about capturing the banality of sedentary midwestern lifestyles, and the whole thing just feels overly measured and mid-range and almost resigned. Bruce Dern‘s Woody Grant reminded me of my cranky, cantankerous dad during his last days, and Will Forte does a very decent job as a loving if somewhat conflicted and resentful son. It’s a very commendable mood-and-atmosphere piece from a respected, first-rate filmmaker, so I don’t want to be snide or dismissive. It’s fine.
So let’s underline the reality: Nebraska is a “good”, well-made film. It’s just not as good (which is to say smart, lively, intriguing, touching or deep) as Sideways or Election or The Descendants or Citizen Ruth…sorry. Respectable but minor. And that’s not a tragedy because there’s always the next one. And if everybody else loves the shit out of Nebraska, terrific. I’m not one to stand in the way.
A lot of the time I was crossing myself and thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t born into some banal, middle-class community in Nebraska or Montana or North Dakota or whereever. The sense of emptiness and watching life tick by as you slurp another beer at the local tavern…Nebraska really delivers that in spades. Welcome to the empty quarter, to the land of backwater nothingness. Oppressive.