January 22, 2014
Nebraska (Alexander Payne, 2013). Apart from anything else, the almost old-fashioned pleasure of some beautiful black-and-white (shot by Phedon Papamichael) in a nearly empty cinema. Those empty main streets on the shining screen could be from The Last Picture Show. The black-and-white adds layers of gravity or even nostalgia while Alexander Payne depends less on comedy here than he did in Sideways, The Descendants and About Schmidt. Schmidt is easily the Payne film that Nebraska most resembles – not just in its characters and the restorative-road-movie outline but in its deep regionalism and sense of a Midwestern past. Look for what registers in the glassy eyes and gaunt face of Bruce Dern’s Woody Grant – what is it that startles him about the sight of a train, early on, as he and his son David (Will Forte) set off for Nebraska?