Nebraska ★★★

Payne's movies often have supporting characters that are aggrieved because they feel they deserve something -- Church in SIDEWAYS deserves one last fling, Bridges and company in DESCENDANTS deserve their share of the land sale. There's a bunch of those characters in NEBRASKA, venal shitheels who want to either begin or continue taking advantage of Dern, at best monetizing previous kindnesses and at worst fleecing an old man. It's hard to fault a comedy its punchlines, and these characters provide plenty of those, but there's so much graceless caricature and mustache-twirling in the movie that it diminishes those parts you're really supposed to care about.

And those parts I liked a lot, although as it develops it's as conventional as can be. Dern works up a genuine rapport with Forte (has any actor ever been better suited to play a home theater salesman?), and there's real pleasure in seeing Forte (and Odenkirk) grow in grace as they fail to shift Dern off his quixotic quest. Squibb's a bit of a cheat -- whereas Dern gets to contain multitudes like stubborn/pushover, it's harder to reconcile the stander-by-her-man that Squibb becomes with her first-act caricature/mustache-twirler.

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