Bittersweet ‘Nebraska’ filled with realistic acting, moody style

Bruce Dern in ‘Nebraska.’ Rated R, 115 min. Paramount Vantage, 2013.

Focusing much more on character and mood than on action, “Nebraska” is the kind of slower, thoughtful film that may just infuriate audiences who are not accustomed to the pace of director Alexander Payne’s introspective, laid-back road-trip movies like “Sideways” and “The Descendants.”

Bruce Dern gives a career-best performance as Woody, a confused old alcoholic convinced he’s won a million-dollar sweepstakes. Seeing his persistence and wanting some time together, Woody’s son David (Will Forte) agrees to drive him from Montana to Nebraska, visiting their bickering family and old home town along the way. June Squibb, as Woody’s wife, is best described as a “firecracker.”

It takes a few moments of patience to appreciate the film’s style, but you may soon marvel at the truth it exposes. It’s there in the subtle, sensitive and super-realistic performances of Dern and Forte, and in the aging and abandoned-looking locations. The stark black-and-white cinematography accentuates the desolation found in the characters.

Woody’s biggest fault is that he believes what people tell him, but the amusing and melancholy script says it’s a real shame of humanity that trust should be seen as a fault at all.

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