Kris and I disagree on the merits of Alexander Payne’s new dramedy “Nebraska,” in which veteran Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Dern and “Saturday Night Live” alum Will Forte play a father and son mending their fractured relationship on a bittersweet road trip through the eponymous state.
Reviewing the film at Cannes, where Dern wound up winning the Best Actor award, I was left cold, saying that “Payne can’t seem to decide if he’s coddling these old-school Midwesterners for their rudely rustic values or sneering at the sheer narrowness of their worldview.” Kris, on the other hand, really connected with it at Telluride a few weeks ago, praising it for “[ringing] a lot of genuine notes while never losing its sense of humor.” One thing we both agreed on (where others don’t) is that it’s definitely a leading vehicle for Dern, who hasn’t had a role this generous in decades.
Interestingly, Paramount chose not to take “Nebraska” to the vast meat market of Toronto — where Payne’s last film, “The Descendants,” really got its Oscar mojo going in 2011. Instead, they’re taking the more specialized route of Telluride and the NYFF — probably a wise course of action for a small film that found its share of admirers at Cannes and Telluride, but hasn’t quite amassed a vocal critical following in the way that Payne’s last couple of films have done. Handled in the right way, this could still well be a year-end prestige player, but it’s in a delicate position.
It’s interesting, then, that this new trailer for the film is arguably selling the film’s offbeat comedy a little harder than the underlying emotion of its concerns with family and aging. Which is by no means a bad thing: it presents the film’s tone and style very much as it is. Check it out below and tell us what you think.