Saturday, November 23, 2013

"Nebraska" is directly below "South Dakota"; why the black-and-white? Is dementia a suitable subject for comedy?

Nebraska”, the latest regional comedy film by Alexander Payne (based on his own home state), written by Bob Nelson, does play a bit like a screenwriting class exercise.  The lines among the various family members and townspeople, during this “road comedy”, sound so metaphoric and forceful that they might have been designed for a table reading.  Is dementia (maybe outright Alzheimer’s) associated with aging in country folk a suitable subject for comedy.  The large (nearly sold out) audience at the Angelika Mosaic in Merrifield VA laughed with the characters in their situation comedy, as I did.  But this is certainly not something I could have written, and I’ve been through an eldercare episode of my own in recent years.  Dementia, for those who have to deal with it, is not funny.

Bruce Dern plays the gullible Woody Grant, who, as the film opens, is trying to walk from Billings, MT to Lincoln NB to claim his sweepstakes prize.  He doesn’t understand that he needs to have the winning numbers on his coupon.  His wife (June Squibb) is appropriately folksy and thinks, if he really wins the million lotto, she can put him in a nursing home.  The son David (Will Forte) plays the dutiful son, always calling him “Dad”, and takes him on the thousand mile drive, through Wyoming and South Dakota first.

As the film progresses, some real "50s sitcom" situations develop, over “owed money” and a missing compressor, which more or less fulfills the comic function of a Duplass “Puffy Chair”.

Paramount released this film under its indie “Vantage” subsidiary, which it doesn’t use often; but it introduced the black-and-white film as “A Paramount Release” to make it look old fashioned.  I wondered about the artistic decision to film in black and white, given the gorgeous outdoor scenery, truthfully on location.
The official site is here.
Wikipedia attribution link for Lincoln skyline. My only visit was in 1982.

The state right to the north has a film named after it, “South Dakota”, by Bruce Isacson, from Lionheart films.  It is said to be due now, but I haven’t been able to find it yet.  Does anyone know when the film will be available?

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