Blessed with some of the best weather of what's been a very rainy festival, Alexander Payne's Nebraska received a doubly warm reception at its Cannes world premiere Friday evening. The director's austere but stirring family dramedy -- shot in black and white -- was given a prolonged and rousing standing ovation inside the Palais theater.
The director was flanked by his stars Bruce Dern and Will Forte (former cast member of Saturday Night Live, making his dramatic acting debut), both of whom received a bevy of bravos for their performances. Forte got a little teary-eyed and was visibly moved. June Squibb, who plays Forte's ribald and straight-talking mom, got the most laughs and a few bursts of applause during the actual screening.
As the sun came out Friday on the Cote d'Azur, so did a couple big stars. Jurors Ang Lee and Nicole Kidman walked the red carpet arm-in-arm, and were embraced at the top of the red carpet steps by festival president Gilles Jacob and general delegate Thierry Fremaux.
Lee was later seated near the back of the Orchestra section and chatted eagerly over his seat with former Palm d'Or winner Jane Campion and her daughter Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures). Lee clapped along with the standing ovation, but remained generally impassive and offered few hints as to how Nebraska might fit into his personal grading of the competition entries thus far, as is usually the custom of Cannes jurors during appearances at screenings.
Heidi Klum and Richard Dryfus also popped up on the red carpet for the premiere.
Cannes was already buzzing Friday about Dern's performance as a broken elderly Nebraskan facing his mortality and bent on traveling across country to collect what he believes is a million dollars in prize money, after he misinterprets a misleading piece of junk mail. The actor, aged 76, was accompanied at the screening by his daughter Laura Dern, who also starred in Payne's first film, Citizen Ruth (1996). The younger Dern gave her father a hug and the director a kiss as the lights came up and the theater filled with applause.
Nebraska, produced by Paramount Vantage, will be released in the U.S. in the Fall.