70 of 82 people found the following review helpful
A POSTCARD FROM NEBRASKA WHERE THE END OF THE ROAD MAY BE PAVED IN GOLD,,
This review is from: Nebraska (DVD)
On my way to "Nebraska" the other day on the bus going up Third Avenue in New York, it was bitter cold outside and two men and I, all strangers past sixty, smiled at each other in weather conspiracy. Finally the man sitting closest to the driver introduced himself from the Deep South, and mentioned jovially that he preferred this brisk chill, adding that he had worked for many years in Alaska where the temperature dropped sometimes to 53 degrees below. The man facing him, with silver hair and pale roses in his cheeks, was busy warming his hands and quietly added that when he was in North Korea, he had experienced the same thing. Turning in my direction, he murmured with a twinkle in his eyes 'well, the whales are happy anyway', to which I nodded amused, and then a light conversation began between the three of us.
If I bring up this small anecdote, it is because it occurred to me how much these two contemporary Americans of mine have traveled, how much they probably know about America, and that one of these days I plan to pull out a map and start doing some homework on what I might call 'The Heart of America'. There is a big difference between an American and a 'New Yorker', and while friends of all nationalities have traveled the States for years, my knowledge extends to a long summer in Bar Harbor, Maine when I was a child, a happy unusual one where thoughts of Maine always conjure up the scent of honeysuckle vines lingering in the warm air.
But what about the State of Nebraska, as depicted by Alexander Payne, the director of this important new movie with a brilliant cast starring Bruce Dern and many others in a stellar performance? Mr. Payne was born in Nebraska by all accounts, and he takes the viewers on a journey that may be a memorable one for some of us in a myriad of ways. Filmed in black and white with stunning clarity, the opening begins with an old man, a derelict and vagabond by the looks of him, on a busy highway staggering painfully past the outskirts of the city of Billings in Montana with a mission in mind, and a young man by his side, his son David, attempting to stop him and argue the point with him. It is not the first time that Woody, his father, has tried to leave home in this way. He received via standard mail an embossed page of official-looking stationery addressed from Lincoln, Nebraska, announcing that he is the big prize winner of a $1 Million Sweepstakes Award, and the cash is just waiting for him to be collected. Elderly Woody is not taking any chances with this one and the mail delivery. He is on his way to Nebraska on foot, if necessary, to collect this sum with pride, and become a millionaire before his time runs out. He wants a new truck although he is no longer able to drive, and an air compressor which he lent to a close friend thirty years ago who never gave it back (later we run into this bully of a borrower and friend, and then further on to an ancient air compressor in a barn on another stop while driving slowly along on the country road).
"Nebraska" is a story about a family but it is not a 'family movie'. It takes place today during these uncertain times, and it is a serious topic that is of interest to a few of us depending on our different roles, responsibilities and age in life, not only in Nebraska but everywhere, when sobering and difficult choices have to be made, as we or our parents may be reaching the end of the road in some way. The couple depicted here, and born some time after WWI, Woody and Kate Grant have two sons Ross and David, the former considered somewhat of a success for being a newscaster on the local TV channel, the latter and younger one in a sludge job, where he is beginning to wonder whether he has any options left for a better life, and is operating in a vacuous indecisive rut.
Their father Woody has always been indifferent to them. He's one tough old bird, and while working on the treadmill of life with a heavy fortifying bottle in hand, he has always been absent from the concept of family, offspring and friends. One has the feeling that Woody has never been that interested in people to begin with, with perhaps one exception long ago, which leaves him looking briefly sad on recollection. Kate, their mother with a loud and foul mouth, is the strong feisty one here and might be called by some of the viewers 'a piece of work', while never giving into feelings of surrender, or defeat. She's had it however with her husband who was considered somewhat of a wild catch in his heyday, while her sons are arguing whether it is time to place 'the old man' in a home for his own safety and their sanity. Although they are both sour about their father, David finally decides reluctantly to travel this last journey of unreality with his father, take a few days off from work to drive him to Nebraska, and essentially look after his parent who is now helpless.
As a choice of characters, this viewer's attention lay focused on how David, a mild-mannered if tenacious man in his early middle-years, was going to handle this trip: whether to mend bridges with his callous father who is sinking into dementia, or simply as an act of good faith for himself in the end. Perhaps for both reasons, as the case may be. And here they go on an adventure, taking them from one state to another, with a brief side visit to their relatives and acquaintances whom they haven't seen in years, and were most likely planning never to see again in the fictional town of Hawthorne, Nebraska.
Kate, followed by her other son Ross, decides to join them at some point so that she is not left out of the party, and because ultimately she cares in her own unsentimental way about her family. Before they show up however, Mr. Woody Grant, to the exasperation and frustration of his son, has told everybody on the road to Nebraska that he is now a millionaire, and they in turn are all suitably impressed with glee in their eyes - a millionaire among their midst! Lots of congratulations and back-slapping are in order, followed by family meals, the appearance of lost best friends and neighbors, some old pals clamoring for past loans of various kinds, and Woody's inevitable bar-hopping to the only joint in the small poverty-stricken forsaken Hawthorne, where the healthiest past-time for senior men is pulling out a chair in front of one's house and watch the grass struggle to grow. As for the rest of the story-line in what is termed as a slow-paced movie, the time flew for this viewer and was pitch-perfect in so many ways. Others may have much more to add to Woody's quest, and determine whether there is in fact a conqueror of gold on this expedition to Nebraska.
There is nothing maudlin in this portrait of realism, and the flavor of the picture is as real as home-made apple pie. It is stark, bleak and powerful in a quiet way. Darkly funny in its portrayal of the lifestyle and behavior of some of its characters, and as comical as life can be on occasion, this viewer and her movie companion ducked at times in disbelief and laughter. The variety of expressions alone from the people depicted, along with their posture and stance, is enough to engender a stunned reaction of mixed mirth and sobriety. Not everybody is going to feel this way, of course, and may wish with validity that none of this is happening. They may start sitting up straighter in their seats, and look at the expansive view before them unraveling, with stony serious eyes.
But, on another note, the vision of space and wide-open skies in rural Nebraska is breath-taking in scope, and when Woody is revisiting his abandoned family home, looking silently at an immense barren field, it is not so much what he may be thinking, but what he is feeling at this poignant moment. And then there are some other tender moments to be found in this whole scenario of a brilliant movie that some of us may have experienced in both different and similar ways; some feelings that one can relate to, without feeling too uncomfortable in the process.
The audience here at first viewing? A generous senior one, with few exceptions, on a week-day before the holidays to our surprise, as we expected an empty theater at this time of year. When my friend and I stepped out onto the second floor of the theater slightly subdued afterwards yet with a tinge of elation, a sighting of one of the most expensive stores in Manhattan hit us in the eye with a slight punch. 'Timely', I ventured quietly, thinking of the vast poverty we had just witnessed. 'Glad I didn't see it alone', my friend replied with a flinch in her voice, causing me to wonder as she is rarely unsettled and has great strength and endurance in her character. And then an elegant woman of a certain age turned to us with gentle wise eyes, raising a finger to her lips, and we joined her solemnly in reading the large movie placard on an easel describing Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" in more detail.
Later, as we walked together in the brisk late winter afternoon, I asked my movie companion who travels America for a living and just became a U.S. citizen after forty years: 'Is it really like that? When shall we go? How long would we last?', and as I listened to what she had to say about what she knew, I felt it was all true. 'Did you notice that Payne left out any sights of children, young people, or animals in his movie? 'Perhaps to keep our focus on this somewhat forgotten senior population?', I reflected. 'The younger generation is leaving and coming to the cities now, and perhaps it is one of the many reasons that there is such a demand for housing at the moment in New York'.
But when I reached home, and from the little I read about Nebraska, it appears that the pulse of this homeland State is beginning to be one of the first to revive at a steadfast pace, and here I shall simply say to Mr. Payne in conclusion: 'Thank you for bringing the temperature of Nebraska to us in such a rich and rewarding way'. A difficult and sensitive masterpiece of his that this viewer intends to see again with even greater interest than the first time, and with more in-depth understanding.
Tracked by 4 customers
Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 13, 2014 9:47:13 AM PST
Giordano Bruno says:
Substantial review, Pippin. Pippin? Haven't I met you under another name? Your namesake musical in New York is worth seeing in its current revival staging, not for the book and certainly not for the music but just for the circus-theme production.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2014 3:10:04 PM PST
D. Blankenship says:
Okay...before I comment upon this review tell me I am not loosing my mind. Did you or did you not make a comment one of my puzzle reviews! I know I read a paragraph, left for a bit and when I returned it was gone. Old men like me worry about such things!
And as to this review! One of your best. This movie has been on "my list" and you most certainly have pushed me over the edge. It is one of the better movie reviews I have read it quite some time now.
We are doing pretty well here and if we can ever get some warm weather going, will, I am sure, find we are alive and well.
And hello Gio...long time.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2014 6:13:47 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 25, 2014 2:51:26 AM PST]
Posted on Feb 11, 2014 8:26:14 AM PST
John Viterito says:
Beautifully written, or should I say, felt. I empathized with all that you wrote about in your review. I've seen the movie three times already, and have had different (albeit positive) responses to each and every scene on each viewing. As an existential psychotherapist, I can honestly say that this movie addresses the "givens" of life that we all wrestle with on a day-to-day basis, regardless of age: loneliness, despair, hope, loves lost and dreamed about, solitude in our own experiences, etc. You've touched on many of these in your review, and I am grateful. A suggestion: I've driven to Nebraska from New Jersey twice for post-graduate study in existential analysis. After seeing this movie, I decided to contact my old mentor from that great state, and I will be taking a drive out there (alone, the only way to do it) this coming summer to see him one last time. On the passenger's seat accompanying me will be the DVD of this movie, soundtrack playing at a low level. Please go yourself one day. It won't be Bermuda or Europe, but a trip that will stand out for you above all others you've ever taken. Your love of this movie will deepen after the journey. Thanks again.
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 11, 2014 9:10:43 AM PST
Pippin O' Rohan says:
Thank you, John, for coming in on the above with your own measured thoughts as a welcome addition. Oddly enough, I keep thinking of Nebraska since I saw this strong movie and have been reading about its history. Since you are an existential psychotherapist, I might add on some personal notes that it reminded me of a similar and final trip taken with a late parent, and what another reviewer described as Don Quixote with Sancho Panza at his side, the former remote and lonely in many ways, to conquer wind-mills, or pursue other elusive dreams. Your thoughtful comments just arrived here, in the midst of sifting with a smile, a vast magnitude of correspondence over the years that my enigmatic parent sent me, causing me to reflect on many life issues that you raised here. And, then the pull of Nebraska that I continue to feel when I have yet to see few other US states. Recollections of open 'Space' that come back from early days in Ireland with overcast skies, perhaps. A letter sent from a young man decades ago who lived up the lane on a barren farm on my father's land, telling me that he had walked all the way back from the local pub with his guitar, everybody was away, he had the fields all to himself, and that he could leave his shirt hanging out if he pleased. Nebraska is on my mind, with growing plans to visit as you suggested, and I am joining you in spirit when you drive there again on your third journey after contacting your old mentor. Have a wonderful journey and pick up a blade of grass for this appreciative viewer if you will...
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 11, 2014 9:36:08 AM PST
Giordano Bruno says:
I'm still rooting for a couple of Oscars for this film.
Posted on Feb 22, 2014 9:38:18 AM PST
Pippin. You, sir, are a writer in your own right! With such skills, I wonder why you have not written a book, novel or screenplay?
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 22, 2014 10:33:53 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 22, 2014 9:01:24 PM PST]
‹ Previous 1 Next ›