From the writer/director of the Oscar winning “Crazy Heart”, Scott Cooper examines a different part of the country – one that feels like there’s no way out. Christian Bale and Casey Affleck are close brothers in a small, dying
Both brothers end up in a downward spiral. This is one bleak, bleak feel-bad film. From the shocking opening moments with Woody Harrelson’s sinister, sociopathic behavior, you know this one’s going down a dark path. Harrelson is terrifying as the meanest dude you’ll see on film all year. Amazing performance!! The top-notch cast is rounded out by Forrest Whitaker, as the sheriff and Sam Shepard as the brothers’ uncle.
Cooper definitely makes a statement here: both about hopeless dying small towns and how we treat our returning over-serving vets. Sound reminiscent of “The Deer Hunter” back in ’78???!! Yes- there are similarities. You’ll need a stiff drink after but while nursing it, no doubt you’ll be talking about the strong performances. Oh- one final memo to writer/director Scott Cooper: your diss of
Julliard-trained Oscar Isaac (the guy in the cabin in “The Bourne Legacy”) is astounding as Llewyn Davis and is totally believable as a sad sack, penniless folksinger trying to make it on the burgeoning
Carey Mulligan (Marcus Mumford’s real-life wife) plays
Coen brothers perennial favorite John Goodman positively steals every scene he’s in as a junkie jazz artist
The Coen brothers nail it as a period piece and infuse their bittersweet story with their trademark ironic/sarcastic humor. Some say this an homage to Dave Van Ronk. Darkly shot against the backdrop of a relentless
Nebraskan director Alexander Payne knows from what he speaks in this look at life in economically-depressed small town
Once again, Payne (who also helmed “The Descendants”) takes to the road, as he did in the much-acclaimed “Sideways”. This is the much underrated Bruce Dern’s film from start to finish, though June Squibb , as his wife, steals almost every scene she’s in. We saw her briefly in the 2002 Alexander Pyane movie , “About Schmidt”, when she keeled over and died in an early scene, leaving the dominated Jack Nicholson a widower, giving him a chance to reinvent his life. Both Dern and Squibb should be making appearances at the Oscars.
With his words spoken few and far between, Dern’s face and mannerisms capture the aging, regretful alcoholic Woody Grant, who is convinced he’s won a million dollars in a magazine sweepstakes. With his spunky wife saying she’d use the money to put the old codger in a home, Woody’s younger son (a surprising turn by “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” actor Will Forte) indulges him and takes him on a 750 mile trip to try to collect the prize. Along the way, they stop and visit family, friends and old enemies who all buy into the story , believing the aging alcoholic is about to become a millionaire, revealing their own greed , jealousies and regrets. Son David finally gets to know his dad over the long road trip.
It’s as if “Nebraksa” is the artwork “American Gothic” come to life. One of the best films of the year, it’s also one of the best comedies. Not to mention the acting, directing and writing- all at the top of their game. The icing on the cake : the score is brilliant and unforgettable. An American masterpiece??? You Betcha!!!