Sunday, June 8, 2014

Nebraska: An Epic and Ludicrous Journey

What does an old man do when his life offers substantial evidence he might be a loser and the clock is running out on his mental lucidity? Give up? Never! When the going gets tough, the tough get going ... to Nebraska ... on foot ... to claim the loot that a Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes mailer says he may have won. Is his quest comical, futile, and doomed? Absolutely. Yet, not much more so than the herculean efforts that most men put into fighting their invincible mortality. Winning the fight is out of the question. Still, there are some bonus character points for refusing to lay down on the mat and going down swinging.

Bruce Dern is the heroic and pathetic father who sets off on an interstate highway like Ulysses sailing off onto the Mediterranean. One small meaningless step for mankind; many painful steps for a kind old man sporting lunatic hairstyle and hospital gown. Will Forte is the son who decides to give his father a lift on his pilgrimage to crazytown. Though he knows dad is as wrong and silly about everything as his mom is right and obnoxious, he grasps that life must make room for a little mercy alongside the justice. So, he reluctantly agrees to be a driver and compassion administrator.

If you haven't seen Nebraska, you should. Stark photography and smalltown dialogue make it seem incredibly real. This black and white film shares some common themes with director Alexander Payne's earlier movie The Descendants. There is the struggle of sensitive nonAlpha men with failure and loss. There is also the abuse of such men by hard-edged dominating women. Fair enough. A common enough reality. Plus, Nebraska makes these folks so authentic, you'll swear you've met them, even if this portrayal of smalltown life is overly negative.

Still, me thinks both films fail to hint at the equally common reality that men with big hearts but small huevos often contribute greatly to the burdening and hardening of their women. Both mom and dad in this dysfunctional family probably deserve compasion, despite the fact that June Squibb portrays mom as one of the least endearing mothers ever. I think I'd rather be hugged and breast-fed by Richard Simmons. What's the take-away message? Even elderly screw-up parents who didn't help us much need some love and grace. Furthermore, men who refuse to find their balls often force their women to grow a huge pair - and sometimes that just aint pretty.

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