Wednesday, February 26, 2014


I was never fond of Bruce Dern as a movie actor other than playing nasty characters. I never found him sympathetic or very pleasant to watch on the big screen. I've felt that way about others who I feel are in the same category. At least in my head, like Jason Robards. When they were calling him the "new Bogart" when I was young (possibly connected to his marrying Bogie's widow, Lauren Bacall) I felt it was a terrible betrayal to the memory of Bogie. Robards didn't have anywhere near the same screen charisma. Neither does Bruce Dern for my money.

But I can see why he got nominated for so many awards for his work in NEBRASKA. What I don't like about Dern sort of fits the character he plays, and ultimately it pays off. But initially it was grueling for me to watch Dern even on the small screen in this. Thankfully he was surrounded with actors who did more than hold their own, especially Will Forte.

For my taste, Forte is the one who should be getting nominations and even winning a few awards. He's great as the guarded and confused grown son of an unguarded but also confused old father. And June Squibb is getting justified kudos for her performance as Dern's character's wife, a true tour de force.

Except for THE DESCENDANTS, Alexander Payne's movies often leave me wishing they had more heart to them, or at least weren't quite so cynical. NEBRASKA has quite a bit of cynicism about "real Americans" as too many movies seem to these days, not just Payne's. But it also has some sweet comic moments and some set pieces right out of a Grant Wood painting, and almost as satisfying in a washed out kind of black-and-white way that nonetheless lacks the artistry of the black-and-white cinematography of the pre-technicolor Hollywood.

But it's worth seeing. The story, and like I said, Dern's performance, ultimately hold up and make it worth the land-of-the-living-dead early scenes that for me were almost cringe worthy. Though I will add, whether it was Clooney's charisma, or the presence of some positive family connections, and even a little joy, that made THE DESCENDANTS the exception in Payne's oeuvre, as they say, I'd like a little more of both next time.


AlamedaTom said...

Perhaps the best example of "What I don't like about Dern sort of fits the character he plays, and ultimately it pays off:" Playing the part of Frank Harlow in "Big Love."

~ Willy

Lally said...

I hear ya, feckin' hated hum in COMING HOME, which may have fit the character but left me with no sympathy for him, which maybe they intended...

PS: forgot to mention how much I liked the soundtrack to NEBRASKA...