We saw Nebraska Saturday night. All the reviewers like it – love it – and it is on alot of Academy Awards short lists, so it is embarrassing to say that I didn’t particularly like it. Don’t get me wrong. it had its charms, It was endearing, as Michele, who liked it alot, said, I just didn’t particularly like it.
One reviewer said that It was pitch perfect and realistic, it seems you are there with these people, watching their lives unfold before you as it happens, and I think that was part of the problem for me. I felt like we were watching these people… not with empathy, but in a voyeuristic way. Everything was just so bleak, but bleak in a way that seemed – in the movie – so hopelessly unredeemable. I once dated a young woman who lived in a “view” apartment on Alta Street, on Telegraph Hill. If you went out on the balcony and stood on your tip-toes, you could just see the view down Alta to the Bay. I felt the same way about this movie, there was redemption and hope, but I had to stand on my tip-toes to see it.
I also felt like a voyeur while watching Winter’s Bone which, again, got rave reviews and for which Jennifer Lawrence got an Oscar (I know, they said it was Silver Linings Playbook, but it was really because they neglected to give her one for Winter’s Bone). Gail Cousins posted a short cartoon on facebook which purported to show the the Power of Empathy Versus Sympathy and Make You a Better Person. In Nebraska – and Winter’s Bone – I could never connect enough to get past sympathy (maybe compassion, but not all the way to empathy). In both movies, the people seemed more like characterchures than flesh and blood characters.
It didn’t help that Nebraska was shot in black and white like a Diane Arbus photograph. The movie is in black and white partially because it makes the place seem even worse; one of the characters says, Apart from drinking there is absolutely nothing to do here and it has never seemed more believable. It was also shot to look very cold. It is probably late fall and the movie opens with a roadside sign flashing 28º. The bleak cold and the black and white also say that This is an Art movie.
In many ways, Nebraska seems to be like David Lynch’s Straight Story with Richard Farnsworth playing the old man on a weird road trip – through Iowa and Wisconsin – rather than Bruce Dern, but Straight Story is about the old man and Nebraska is really about the son, played by Will Forte. Forte – who I have probably seen in twenty movies but don’t remember him from any particular one – is excellent. All the actors are excellent – Mary Louise Wilson Stacy Keach, Bob Odenkirk – and are actors that have been around for years, playing background roles. In a former time, they were called character actors as opposed to leading role actors; they are people who have been – unnoticed – in dozens of movies and they shine here.
Director, producer and screenwriter Alexander Payne was born in Omaha, Nebraska and I can’t help but think that Nebraska is a somewhat snarky comment on the state and its natives. On the other hand Miss Nebraska Teen USA 2013, Jasmine Fuelberth, who was invited to the premiere in Norfolk was thrilled, saying I feel so blessed to have attended the Nebraska movie premiere last night! It was a wonderful night filled with amazing and talented people as well as great memories made! 🙂 God is so good, and I will forever be thankful for this opportunity!