Still from Nebraska (2013).

This was the first Alexander Payne film that I watched. I would discover, to my extreme delight, the slew of scathing humor in his other comedies like Sideways, Election, and About Schmidt later. And then spend about three months wondering how I felt about The Descendents. I went in expecting a comedy. Got an emotional sucker-punch to the gut.

Blood is thicker than water. Thicker, not better. Nebraska, first and foremost, is a ridiculously gorgeous film (we bow at your altar, Señor Papamichael): a meditative lullaby in the guise of cinema. Wearing farcical notions of familial intimacy for a cloak, Nebraska subtly jabs at the nonsensical reality of growing old, and losing parts of our mind on the way there.

This particular scene, where the characters reminisce absently about the cars they used to own, shows a bunch of people unrelated to each other in real life sitting together and making up a frame that screams Family Gathering. The rich monochrome helps, aided by Mark Orton’s mellow, indulgent score; completed with the believable dullness with which the actor fill in the seams of graceful humor.

A truly great film –  one that doesn’t pretend or try to be anything other than what it is.


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