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Pick of the week: Bruce Dern’s red-state odyssey

“Nebraska” doesn’t quite know what kind of movie it wants to be, which I suppose is another way of saying it’s an Alexander Payne film. Shot in black-and-white, on some of the most depressing American locations you'll ever see, "Nebraska" is a ruthless social satire that proves Payne hasn't lost his misanthropic edge after going gentle with “The Descendants.” At the same time, it’s also a sentimental two-hander with Hollywood veteran Bruce Dern and one-time “Saturday Night Live” star Will Forte as an estranged father and son, finding a way to connect during an unexpected road trip. It’s a career-capping performance by Dern, who is so convincing as an addled, drunken, embittered and probably dying man that he doesn’t appear to be acting, but Forte is just as good playing a preoccupied, emotionally constricted man-child. (Dern, who is now 77, won the best-actor prize at Cannes this year, and is likely to be nominated for an Oscar as well.)

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