The abyss also looks into you – ★★★★
At the sprightly age of 77 Bruce Dern may have given his greatest performance in Nebraska as the alcoholic, curmudgeonly Woody Grant moving ever closer to the grave. His chance to collect a million dollar sweep stake gives him the opportunity to finally make something of his life. His son David (Will Forte) is the only family member prepared to entertain his ludicrous notions and accompany him to Nebraska to collect his winnings. David’s life isn’t panning out much better than his fathers. Recently broken up, living alone in a one bedroom apartment and working at a local electrical store he decides to do something by taking a road trip with his father across the country.
Shot in black in white, Alexander Payne’s film has many of the hallmarks of his previous outings The Descendants, Sideways and About Schmidt. An examination of the navel-gazing men do so well, taking stock of a life that has passed them by and wondering what, if anything, they have achieved. Woody’s mood is set perfectly against the bleakness of the American midlands. We are constantly reminded of how it has been left behind and decimated by the downturn in the economy with the landscape being as sparse and scruffy as Dern’s beard.
The supporting cast are on top form with Forte, a former SNL stalwart, managing to maintain a permanent hang dog expression, never breaking character. His brother Ross played here by Breaking Bad regular Bob Odenkirk is less forgiving of his father’s recent annoying behaviour, unable to see why he should care when his father never bothered to. Woody’s long suffering wife Kate (played by June Squibb) steals the show with the best lines and biggest laughs cutting through the melancholy self loathing shtick.
Dern will hopefully pick up some award nominations but his chances are slim if one consults the statistics regarding men over 70 winning an Oscar. No one else could play this role better and age is the crucial element. Returning to where you spent your childhood, had your first romance, served your country and carved out a life are not the pastimes of a young man (or perhaps any man), but an ageing one is necessary to give them the pathos they deserve.
Released across Ireland on 6th of December 2013