Alexander Payne’s new film Nebraska wowed at the Venice and Cannes film festivals with its droll and elegiac look at the American family.

nebraska film review VIFF

The film starts off as a road trip with father and son, Woody (Bruce Dern) and Bill (Will Forte) taking a trip to Nebraska to claim Woody’s $1 million sweepstakes prize. Tackling dysfunctional family drama is nothing new to Payne, who did a superb job with The Descendents, and this time the tone is more dry and deadpan as the Dern plays a Lear-like figure who is resolutely determined to claim his prize money.

Assembled into small vignettes, the film is at it’s best when Woody and Bill visit family who all want a piece of the pie. The acting is sterling, and Dern is a lovely surprise as the forgetful and stoic father. June Squibb is lovely as his bawdy wife. But the real winner here is Will Forte, who let’s loose on the sad-sack role as the dutiful son experiencing his own tribulations. The film is a treat to watch in black and white, with Phedon Papamichael’s beautiful cinematography which makes the expansive rural countryside look like an American Gothic painting. Nebraska is a delightful film that gives a new lease to Dern and Forte’s careers and will go on to win some Oscar nods soon.

Nebraska plays at Vancouver International Film Festival and releases in theatres November 22, 2013.

Story By: Rumnique Nannar  |  Photography Courtesy: VIFF