Nebraska is a price winner; its story is human, its cinematography is striking and its actors are poignants. One guy; Alexander Payne, spreading magic powder through his hands into his work.
Son and father, David (Will Forte) and Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), both lonely, both reflecting something perfect under sunlight, and both going on a road trip.
Woody embodies the loneliness felt when we grow old, he’s always looking away, walking on the opposite side of the road, having his mind completely disconnected, holding on to some fantasy that would make him feel him again. Not young, just a fresh new him. And that fantasy is the belief of having won 1 million dollars.
Thus started a road-trip from Montana to Nebraska.
Through that journey, Payne provided us with a unique experience, a breathtaking adventure in black and white, a bold choice, showing us the beauty of pure exploitation of light and shadow in a movie, just like Edward Hopper did in his paintings. And we can find similarities with realistic urbanist painters such as Charles Sheeler, in Payne’s design. Large buildings and big billboards, isolation, calm, sunlight, the atmosphere can be described as that feeling you get after a great nap of one hour or so, from which you wake up happy and ready to go out the night.
With his shots of desert cities and vast fields, the director translates something really precise, he conveys the idea of action being stopped. That is to say, fixed shots, with very little mouvement, cows’ tails swigging or a light that blinks, the only real motion came from the actors, and especially David and Woody, moving forward, and not digging up the past, not being able to or not wanting to. It seems like time has stopped to give enough time to Woody so that he can pursue this quest and get that last prize. This can also be observed when he is exposed to light; indeed, even though we can still see him up to his really thin white hairs, he is disappearing, and he tries to escape that light.
Above all, Nebraska is an incredibly human story, the characters are tightly bind together, it is a real family which has its difficulties but is surrounded by love and memories. The movie is a tale about growing old, the desire to leave something behind and to have no regrets.
Nebraska is conveying a value, something extremely human, not only about family, but ourselves, how we need to build something in order to leave the ruins for people to collect.