by Johanna Schneller.
I think Alexander Payneis messing with me. The Oscar-winning writer/director of six films, including About Schmidt, Sideways and The Descendants, is in a Toronto hotel room. His chair is positioned so he can look at me but also gaze out the window into middle distance, where he seems to seek his answers. We’re talking about his latest film, Nebraska, which opened in select cities yesterday. It’s a road movie, shot in black and white, about an irascible father, Woody (Bruce Dern), who thinks he’s won a million dollars, and his son David (Will Forte), who knows he hasn’t, but agrees to drive him from Billings, Montana, to Lincoln, Nebraska, anyway.
To me, it’s a meditation on an America that doesn’t exist any more: small towns that have gone from friendly to boarded up; once-productive farms reduced to sticks and weeds; parents who refused to let their children get to know them. Woody’s economic history mirrors America’s, too: His father farmed, he owned his own car repair garage, and now his son sells electronics made overseas.
But when I tell this to Payne, he feigns astonishment. “I didn’t think about any of that stuff,” he says. “I just thought it was a cute little movie.”
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