Nebraska reviews

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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby Uri » Fri Feb 07, 2014 8:42 am

Sometimes, a coincidental chain of events creates a meaningful substance which is not necessarily actually there. As I do from time to time, I went to Tel Aviv yesterday to have a day at the movies and watched first The Great Beauty (which I loved) and then Nebraska. And strangely, the latter benefited enormously from following the former. A great deal of it made a perfect sense to me in a way I feel I wouldn't feel had I saw it on its own.

In a way, these two films are about the same – an old (or old-ish) man and his physical and anthropological habitat. And after experiencing the glorious, opulent, luscious, sunny palette Rome is basked in, Billings Montana and Hawthorn Nebraska MUST be seen in monochrome, so the cinematography (and locations choosing) here seems far more valid artistically and not even a bit manneristic, something I might have felt on another day. And following the spare, rambling, quite freely associative constant exposition of TGB, the tight action-and-consequence, closure seeking Lutheran narrative of Nebraska suddenly feel organically representing its subject matter rather than somewhat contrived. The zombieness of these mid-westerners compliments perfectly the desperate, manic sensuality of those Romans. (And interestingly, the only life infused character here, the one played by June Squibb, is catholic).

So yes, I did like Nebraska, as I should – when it comes to Payne’s opus, it’s a very nit hit and miss affair for me – I was intrigued by Election, disappointed by About Schmidt, appreciative of Sideways and despising The Descendents. And on a very personal note, I like the fact that he show us that rarely explored aspect of human life, that of being the child of an old parent, and he does it very well - the Hope Davis’ character and storyline was the best part of Schmidt and here too, a major element in the success of this one is the Will Forte’s character, who is the real subject of this piece and the most complex one in it too.

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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Jan 20, 2014 4:16 am

ksrymy wrote:It's being viewed through a lens of melodramatic camp now by critics. Whatever they can do to justify an inappropriately-high rating...


Oh ok. I didn't get that in the review. But it was late.

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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby ksrymy » Mon Jan 20, 2014 4:13 am

It's being viewed through a lens of melodramatic camp now by critics. Whatever they can do to justify an inappropriately-high rating...
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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Jan 20, 2014 4:03 am

ksrymy wrote:
Now if only Eric could get on board with this...



I like Eric - he's a nice, intelligent guy - but yesterday I tried to see The Butler. I would have never paid to see it - or even gone to a cinema; but a friend gave me a dvd so I thought, why not.

I realized that I'm not a strong man anymore. I can't see ANYTHING as I used to once; I guess that as years go by one realizes that time is so important that even a hour can't be wasted on things like this. Don't ge me wrong - I did my best to prove to myself that I was still young and virile: not only I went through that unbearable couple, Forest Whirraker and America's favorite Oprah Winfrey (and one can only be grateful to the Academy for NOT nominating her), but also through those presidents unconvincingly played by Robin Williams and John Cusack and, most importantly, the depressing lack of subtext which pervaded the whole thing. But it was too disheartening, and the moment someone pretending to be JFK solemnly declared: "This isn't the country I want", I stopped. I blocked it. I couldn't go on. The Butler (and America) won, Italiano lost. This time.

And then of course, as I always do only AFTER watching a movie, I went to see the reviews on Imdb. And I went to Slant, too. And I was speechless. Maybe it was a nightmare - it was late at night, after all - but I swear that the supposedly "cool", revolutionary boys of Slant - not Eric personally - give this thing THREE STARS AND A HALF, making it almost a masterpiece! These same people gave Blue is the Warmest Color three stars (which means good, but not as great as The Butler), and The Great Beauty two stars and a half! (Nebraska also gets three). And honestly, in no rational universe can The Butler be considered an even slightly better movie than these others I've mentioned. It's simply, objectively, WRONG. I don't accept objections - anyone who thinks so is an idiot. Any magazine - online or not - who says so is an idiotic magazine.

This isn't about Eric of course - he's not the unique responsible for all this. But I was sad yesterday. Because no matter what, Americans may be young and unconventional and everything - but give them something like The Butler and they won't resist its patriotic, feel-good charm. They will always be Americans. Yes, I think it's sad.
Last edited by ITALIANO on Mon Jan 20, 2014 4:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby ksrymy » Sun Jan 19, 2014 10:14 pm

ITALIANO wrote:One of the worst sides of these' precursors-dominated times is that a movie like Nebraska, which in the past, with its six major nominations, would be quite discussed at this point, seems to be kind of ignored. It's a pity, because while of course Best Picture would be impossible, other Oscars in theory wouldn't be out of reach: Best Supporting Actress (a justly praised, masterful turn by Jane Squibb) and Best Original Screenplay especially, maybe also Best Cinematography (I can't believe that this will lose to Gravity!). But we are told that it will get zero Oscars, and so nobody talks about it much.
It certainly may not win anything - not with those three "big" movies dominating the scene. But it SHOULD win something, because it succeeds in being a very human but at the same time not tender portrayal of a "minor", too often forgotten America. (I can imagine some Americans, not on this board, calling it "condescending", as if the art of grotesque were an offensive act. And in this case, by the way, the grotesque and the melancholic merge beautifully).
It's also, of course, beautifully acted. June Squibb is the only one with a - remote, I know - possibility of winning an Oscar, but Will Forte is extremely good too, and very believable - a wonderful low-key performance. As for Bruce Dern, his American "king Lear" is, I'm afraid, too minimalistic to truly impress the Academy, but I'm glad that he's been nominated, and who knows, after I see all the nominees he could even be MY personal pick. He's definitely very good.
This is a movie which for once doesn't deal with the "big" (and rare) events in one's life, but rather with those long, in some cases neverending, stretches of "nothing" between events. Yet it's never boring, it's often intelligent, and it gives us landscapes, faces, even interiors which feel painfully real and raw

Beautifully put, Marco.

Now if only Eric could get on board with this...
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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sun Jan 19, 2014 1:43 pm

One of the worst sides of these' precursors-dominated times is that a movie like Nebraska, which in the past, with its six major nominations, would be quite discussed at this point, seems to be kind of ignored. It's a pity, because while of course Best Picture would be impossible, other Oscars in theory wouldn't be out of reach: Best Supporting Actress (a justly praised, masterful turn by Jane Squibb) and Best Original Screenplay especially, maybe also Best Cinematography (I can't believe that this will lose to Gravity!). But we are told that it will get zero Oscars, and so nobody talks about it much.
It certainly may not win anything - not with those three "big" movies dominating the scene. But it SHOULD win something, because it succeeds in being a very human but at the same time not tender portrayal of a "minor", too often forgotten America. (I can imagine some Americans, not on this board, calling it "condescending", as if the art of grotesque were an offensive act. And in this case, by the way, the grotesque and the melancholic merge beautifully).
It's also, of course, beautifully acted. June Squibb is the only one with a - remote, I know - possibility of winning an Oscar, but Will Forte is extremely good too, and very believable - a wonderful low-key performance. As for Bruce Dern, his American "king Lear" is, I'm afraid, too minimalistic to truly impress the Academy, but I'm glad that he's been nominated, and who knows, after I see all the nominees he could even be MY personal pick. He's definitely very good.
This is a movie which for once doesn't deal with the "big" (and rare) events in one's life, but rather with those long, in some cases neverending, stretches of "nothing" between events. Yet it's never boring, it's often intelligent, and it gives us landscapes, faces, even interiors which feel painfully real and raw

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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby flipp525 » Tue Dec 10, 2013 4:53 pm

I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. And June Squibb certainly keeps things alive (thank god she shows up again halfway through the film). Will Forte was just great. He achieves just the right balance of consternation, weariness and concern. It might be the film's most well-rounded performance.

Bruce Dern gave a pretty recessive performance that I think serves the tone of the film very well. I do have to say that I saw quite a bit of his characters from "Big Love" and his supporting turn in Monster bubbling through his portrayal so it didn't feel like something particularly new for him.
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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby Sabin » Sun Dec 01, 2013 7:35 pm

I don’t enjoy liking this movie as much as I did because everything loathsome about any Alexander Payne film is doubly so here. These people are monsters and the comedy around them is gross. And yet the cumulative experience of Nebraska worked for me more than any of Payne's films. It's not as good as Sideways, but there is a power in it between glances and unspoken words between father and son that felt beautiful. The stuff that sucks, yeah, that stuff sucks. The stuff that doesn't worked very well, and I think it has to do with Bob Nelson's screenplay and how it doesn't content itself to Payne's trappings. What would seem on the surface to be a wacky film about a senile old man and a befuddled son, through gradual, new information revealed through little scenes rolling into each other felt if not Local Hero, then at least what Alexander Payne has been moving towards all these years now. For some, it's a surprising double, for others like Eric, it would seem to be the ripcord.

I think what warmed me to this film so much (and again, following my experiences with The Descendants, I want to clarify: we're talking about a double, not a washout) is that it doesn't become clear what Nebraska is doing until halfway through. This is a film that is asking what is wrong with Woody and it successfully dupes you (/me?) into caring. Yes, he is a loser who has led a wasted life. And yes, he was traumatized during the war. And yes, he drinks, screws around. And yes, he owes everybody money. But then there's something about the final piece of the puzzle: it's money given to him because everyone dupes him into doing stupid things for free because he can't say no to anyone. It's that last piece of the puzzle, that extra-deepening of a seemingly (and, as played, actually) one-dimensional character that won me over. It's not Payne's stock misanthropy. There is something to be said for a family of people who convince someone like Woody to do God knows how much labor just because he won't say no, eventually give him some money in his time of need, and then (because secretly they find him to be so pathetic) forget about the first part of the deal. What was once a community helping itself out over the years has become "Woody owes us money". Because screenwriter Bob Nelson has rooted this community in a very specific shared history, it didn't feel so much misanthropic as…sad. And even Sideways, that once-overrated, then-underrated, now-just-good movie, could've used a sadness as understated as this film's.

I think Alexander Payne's black and white movie is going to get more nominations for this one than anything else he's done. Just wait. Phedon Papamichael's black and white cinematography, the road trip editing which feels just a little more seamless than when Jack and Miles took to the road (or that joke of a Best Editing nomination for The Descendants), Mark Orton's awesome score (my favorite thus far this year), Bob Nelson's script, Payne's directing, June Squibb, and Bruce Dern who could really, honestly win.
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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby Eric » Sat Nov 30, 2013 10:06 am

My brief thoughts as posted on Letterboxd, and pretty much the full extent to which I feel like discussing this dog. Suffice it to say, K. Uhlich was on the mark...
Awful. I admit that, as a director, Alexander Payne has been one of my own critical bêtes noir ever since About Schmidt, which, like the films that followed it — Sideways and The Descendants — tried to dance a thin line between empathy and contempt for its grotesque characters. (Previously, I loved the savagery of Citizen Ruth and especially Election, movies that were very much more mean-spirited than Payne’s more recent films, but were at least purer for it.) Nebraska, in which Will Forte’s good son indulges his doddering and senile father’s fantasy that his magazine subscription come-on scam actually represents a winning $1 million lottery ticket and drives him through the American heartland to retrieve the “prize,” is maybe the most infuriating of Payne’s entire filmography because, underneath the cheap hicksploitation punchlines and crowd-pleasing saltiness of June Squibb as Bruce Dern’s exasperated wife, it touches on themes and demographics sadly underrepresented in today’s movies. The movie only pays lip service to providing portraiture of Middle American mediocrity, the land every economic upturn seems to forget, and the resentful silent now-minority who reside therein. But Payne never misses an opportunity to sardonically linger on the drooling of, as per Lisa Simpson, “slack-jawed yokels.”

To counter Tee's claim that Payne haters should hang up their hang-ups and give this one a try, I'm here to say that I hated this one more than just about any of his movies excepting, perhaps, About Schmidt, which I haven't seen in 11 years and don't particularly feel like redressing.

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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby dws1982 » Sun Nov 17, 2013 12:11 am

Mister Tee wrote:She and Nyong’o are apples and oranges, but I wonder if a lot of Academy folk might lean toward the old lady.

So basically…Judi Dench is to Big Magilla as June Squibb is to Mister Tee.

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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Nov 16, 2013 9:40 pm

In a year when almost every movie has been at least a slight disappointment, one that exceeded my (somewhat tamped down) expectations.

I didn’t loathe The Descendants like many of you, but I found it tonally askew. It was hard to judge whether it was a comedy whose jokes were falling a bit flat, or a drama that flirted too close to the edge of comedy for comfort – either way, it didn’t work the way it should have. I have no such problem with Nebraska: it’s a movie of serious intent that’s very funny, and I never for a moment felt the tone was unsure. This may be Payne’s most fully successful film.

The premise is slight: old guy insists the “You may have won a million dollars” announcement he received in the mail is legit, and his family, unable to talk him out of it, indulges him with a trip to the company’s office. But this is a case where what the movie is really about doesn’t show in the synopsis. This is a movie about aging, about disappointments in families, about parts of the country decaying, about people’s indifference to one another’s needs. It’s a heartbreaking movie that makes you laugh out loud. It’s a cynical movie that has affection for most of its characters. It’s a beauty.

Even those of who like Alexander Payne’s films tend to think of him as a writer more than director, but here I think it’s time to revisit the notion. He didn’t write the script (though I assume he tinkered some), yet you’d never miss that this was an Alexander Payne film. (I know, for some that’s a threat) Even when the story-line flirts with sentiment (as I think the very ending does), Payne knows how to hold it back. There’s never a cloying moment, and the actors achieve some beats of pure beauty through restraint. The film is also the most visually striking Payne’s ever put together – major kudos to his cinematographer, who demonstrates once again the major possibilities of black and white: the bleakness of the landscape is part of the characters’ lives. There’s also a wonderful score – a mournful tune reminiscent of Midnight Cowboy that grounds the film as much as anything.

What I especially like about the script is how much we learn about characters in very short strokes, often through what others say about them. Dern’s Woody is somewhat far gone in the story proper, but we’re told things about him that make us look at him in new ways. Especially noteworthy: a scene where his son, Will Forte, goes to a small-town newspaper office and meets an old flame of Dern’s – a scene beautifully acted and written. And there are plenty such scenes scattered throughout the film.

Payne also seems to be conveying feelings about an entire region (the place of his birth). The small Nebraska town where much of the action takes place feels as bereft as what Bogdanovich showed in The Last Picture Show. Hardly anyone seems to be under 40, if not 50. The only non-Caucasians we see are two Hispanics running the garage Woody once owned (a business that seems to be the only thriving one in town, outside of saloons) When political scientists speak of the demographics taking over America, they’re not thinking of the denizens of Hawthorne NE. They’re the people left behind, and part of the subtext of the movie is their rage over this fact.

Dern is, as I say, somewhat “under” throughout the film, but in an intriguing way: we never know how much he truly hears or understands (even if he truly believes he’s going to collect his million dollars). He’s got all sorts of wonderful moments when he breaks through this seeming stupor – like pulling his son’s leg about the teeth by the railroad tracks, explaining what marriage and children meant to him (or didn’t), or just looking around his abandoned childhood home with absolutely clear eyes. I’ve seen all five leading male performances most commonly spoken of as the Oscar slate this year – Ejiofor, Redford, McConnaughey, Hanks and Dern – and Dern would get my vote without hesitation. It’s easily his role of a lifetime.

I suppose I’ve seen Will Forte over the years, but I haven’t really done SNL enough in recent decades to know much about him. He’s quite wonderful here…you’d never guess it was a role out of his wheelhouse. His muted reactions serve as audience surrogate when things get crazy, and he seems perfectly in the moment throughout.

I find it impossible to believe June Squibb can be denied a supporting actress nomination; she defines the term scene-stealer. It helps that nearly every line she has is a gem, but she lands each one perfectly, and creates a believable character beneath all the bitchery. She’s like that relative I think everyone has – the one who, upon hearing someone’s name, will immediately tell you the most negative thing possible about the person (“She was always ugly”). Yet she seems to have a certain joie de vivre throughout, and even deep-seated affection for the man she mocks much of the time. She and Nyong’o are apples and oranges, but I wonder if a lot of Academy folk might lean toward the old lady.

I imagine those who’ve never liked Alexander Payne will continue to not like him, but I half-urge you to at least give him a try this time. I think he’s really pulled off something special.

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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby Okri » Sat May 25, 2013 10:29 pm

Eric wrote:For balance...

....

For the most part, I found Alexander Payne's American heartland drama, Nebraska, a rank exercise in hicksploitation sentimentalism. It's almost always a crapshoot whether the filmmaker's self-consciously low-key aesthetic will play with pointed insight or freakish repellence; even in one of his best works, the Hawaii-set The Descendants, Payne can't resist reducing wronged woman Judy Greer to a hysteria-prone punchline. Sad to say that his worst instincts win out here.


Man, I hated that movie.

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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby Sabin » Thu May 23, 2013 11:20 am

Looks okay.
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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Thu May 23, 2013 10:30 am

Screen International

Nebraska
23 May, 2013 | By Fionnuala Halligan


Dir: Alexander Payne. US. 2013. 110mins


A wry, somewhat downbeat comedy in the vein of The Straight Story, Nebraska sees Alexander Payne return to the road trip in this affecting story of a taciturn old man with advancing dementia, played by Bruce Dern, who insists on travelling to Lincoln, Nebraska with his son to claim a $1 million lottery prize which is clearly a scam.

While Nebraska is a wry comedy, the humour just adds a gloss to its main thrust, which is a tribute to America’s heartland and the generations who came, worked, and ultimately, the film suggests, lost this terrain.

Shot in lustrous black and white by Phedon Panamichael, a decision which emphasises the bleakness of its battered Midwestern terrain, Nebraska pays tribute to the stoic seniors who have lived a hard life in these dented, dingy towns of America’s heartland but takes an uneasy vantage point in which some of the laughs are affectionate and respectful yet others can feel a little cheap and mean-spirited.

Nebraska is much stronger when it starts speaks subtly of the past, through a son (Will Forte) who begins to piece together his father’s troubled life, and the relationship between his squabbling parents in this smaller-scale work from Payne.

Dern’s leading performance, supported by the wonderful June Squibb and a great cameo from Stacy Keach, should find a response come awards time and help attract smaller-scale, upmarket audiences to Payne’s work while not quite achieving the reach of Sideways or Election. Fans of the director will see a return to form after The Descendents.

Payne’s black-and-white view of his home terrain is stark with, at times, an almost Depression-era feel, starting in Billings, Montana – “the magic city” - with Woody Grant (Dern) determinedly walking down the freeway to claim his lottery winnings when he’s picked up by a policeman and brought home by his son, David (Forte). Woody’s outspoken, misanthropic wife June says it’s time to put him in a home, but electronics salesman David argues with his TV anchorman brother Ross (Odenkirk) to be more sympathetic to an elusive father who has always been uncommunicative, as well as a lifelong drunk.

Travelling through Wyoming – they detour to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota – Woody ends up with a gash in his head after a drunken fall in Rapid City and they take a side trip to his home town of Hawthorne for what becomes a family reunion. Woody, it transpires, has six surviving brothers. Pieces of their story emerge – a Swedish father, a Lutheran upbringing, siblings who died, and military service in Korea.

This is where Nebraska is at its strongest. Meanwhile, as news of Woody’s lottery win circulates through Hawthorne, various “friends” including Woody’s old business partner Ed Pegram (Keach) discover debts they’d like to be repaid. This is where Nebraska can stumble, when the characterisation of simple farming folk takes a turn towards the portraying them as simpletons.

Whenever things falter, though, there’s always June Sqibb as bitchy, complaining matriarch Kate to steal the show, positioning herself as the hottest thing in town back in the day. Against her, Forte’s performance can seem anemic, and the character of David fades into the dramatic scenery.

While Nebraska is a wry comedy, the humour just adds a gloss to its main thrust, which is a tribute to America’s heartland and the generations who came, worked, and ultimately, the film suggests, lost this terrain. This is where Nebraska is at its most powerful, and this is the picture that will resonate after the laughs subside.

Of note is Dennis Washington’s production design, captured sadly by Papamichael. The at-times jaunty, guitar-led score can be at odds, sometimes jarringly, with these visuals.

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Re: Nebraska reviews

Postby Eric » Thu May 23, 2013 9:52 am

For balance...

http://www.timeout.com/newyork/film/can ... -detective

Cannes 2013: Nebraska and Blind Detective
Alexander Payne irritates with his father-son melodrama while Johnnie To gets Looney beyond belief.

By Keith Uhlich Thu May 23 2013

For the most part, I found Alexander Payne's American heartland drama, Nebraska, a rank exercise in hicksploitation sentimentalism. It's almost always a crapshoot whether the filmmaker's self-consciously low-key aesthetic will play with pointed insight or freakish repellence; even in one of his best works, the Hawaii-set The Descendants, Payne can't resist reducing wronged woman Judy Greer to a hysteria-prone punchline. Sad to say that his worst instincts win out here.

Nebraska feels off from the start, right from the appearance of the old-time Paramount logo that several current directors have used to signify their nostalgic love for 1970s American cinema and implied disdain for the present. (The golden-years affect has long gotten old, and artists should really stop feeling embarrassed about making movies for their own time.) Furthering the those-were-the-days noxiousness is Phedon Papamichael's black-and-white cinematography, reportedly post-converted from color, which has all the textural quality of curdled milk, as well as the presence of '70s character actor du jour Bruce Dern as the film's Alzheimer's afflicted protagonist Woody Grant.

Montana-residing Woody is so convinced he's won a million dollars in one of those scam mail-in sweepstakes that he often wanders off on his own in an attempt to collect the prize. His son David (Will Forte, just terrible) is always called in to pick up Dad on the side of the road or at the police station. Frustrated with this predictable cycle, as well as with his own static life, David decides to take Pop on a road trip to the sweepstakes headquarters in Nebraska. A minor accident along the way diverts the duo to Woody's old hometown, where they stay with some officious, money-grubbing relatives and confront a few lingering issues from the past.

There's no shortage of slack-jawed yokel stereotyping in Nebraska (Payne takes great delight in portraying a Sunday family dinner strictly divided along women-in-the-kitchen and men-watching-football gender lines). But I don't think that's the real problem, since plenty of movies—David Lynch's The Straight Story is an especially apt point of comparison—have used exaggeration to unearth profound truths about regional communities that are not often portrayed on cinema screens.

Payne knows this location well—he was born and still has family in Nebraska—and the characters are clearly drawn from experience. (June Squibb is sure to be singled out for supporting actor accolades as Woody's speaks-her-mind spouse, Kate.) What rankles is the abyssal and abysmal disconnect between the filmmaker's apparent understanding of his subject and how he executes that vision onscreen.

It mostly comes down to an unharmonious mix of lowest common denominator satire and treacly emotionalism. Payne will follow one such track for a tedious while—such as a grating cemetery sequence in which the saucy Kate criticizes a number of dead acquaintances before flashing her nether-regions at an old flame's headstone—then grindingly switch gears into sickly-sweet, heartstring-plucking territory. I hope to see no scene this year as off-puttingly pleased with its own bathos as Woody and David's climactic, reconciliatory truck ride down main street.

Neither tone meshes well with the other (it's like watching two different films, one composed of sugar the other of arsenic, blended coarsely together). Plus, there's a special place in hell reserved for Mark Orton's maudlin score, which obsequiously indicates every emotion you're supposed to feel, even as it sticks in your head with its inane, elevator-muzak repetitiveness. Payne can only go up from this misfire. One hopes.


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