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Screens

Bruce Dern Mesmerizes in 'Nebraska'

Photo: Courtesy Photo, License: N/A

Courtesy Photo

As Woody’s mother and son, June Squibb and Will Forte deliver notable performances, but this is Woody’s—and actor Bruce Dern’s—show


Payne, son of the heartland and darling of big-city cineastes, has built his career on chronicling regular lives lived in places that Hollywood rarely bothers to notice or begins to understand. In Payne’s earlier work (Election, About Schmidt), and in this return to form, earthy bluntness and Midwestern stoicism is often used as a punch line. A few critics have bristled at a perceived condescension in his tone, which TimeOut New York’s Keith Uhlich calls “Hixplotation sentimentalism.” They scorn the way Payne is supposedly sneering at unsophisticated, jerkwater yokels, milking them for cheap laughs and forced tears. Sometimes I really wonder if guys like this have ever set foot in the Midwest—and I don’t mean Chicago.

Payne certainly has. He was born and raised in Omaha, and has perfected a curious mix of love and resentment toward his homeland—the native’s prerogative. He can take the piss out of the stark environment and barren cultural landscape of Nebraska all he wants. He’s from there, and it shows.

Nebraska

Dir. Alexander Payne; writ. Bob Nelson; feat. Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Stacy Keach, Bob Odenkirk (R)
Opens December 13 at the Bijou

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