Movie review: Payne returns to form with “Nebraska”

By Columbus Alive
From the December 12, 2013 edition

Full disclosure: My grandfather is losing his mental capacities on a slow and steady trajectory toward death (hey, aren’t we all?). I’m telling you this because it may render me a little more susceptible to the sentiment of a movie like “Nebraska.”

That said, I think it’s a safe to say Alexander Payne’s latest film will charm a lot of audiences this holiday season with a nice mix of arthouse quirk and genuine heart.

Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is a classic cinematic curmudgeon, a stubborn old drunk who “wins” a promotional sweepstakes prize of a million bucks.

Never mind that his son (Will Forte) knows it’s a farce. He humors his old man and drives him from Montana to Nebraska to claim his “prize.”

Nebraska native Payne has had one of the more stellar directorial careers — I considered 2011’s “The Descendants” to be a bit of a disappointment after “Sideways,” “About Schmidt,” “Election” and “Citizen Ruth.”

“Nebraska” fits snuggly in his oeuvre (I get+10 film critic points for using that word). Shot in black and white, the film is warm, funny and offbeat in spades.

Dern will be a dark horse in what’s shaping up to be a very interesting Best Actor race. “SNL” alumnus Forte is amazingly almost as good.

“Nebraska” evokes a small-town charm and a lovingly eye-rolling look at family. This time of year, we could all use that, dying grandpas or not.