I personally love Alexander Payne movies, and while critics are a bit mixed on this, the biggest complaint against the film is that it is a bit more sentimental than his other film, without as much sardonic bite. I personally think this will only help him, not hurt him, when it comes to AMPAS, but as always we'll have to wait and see.
Scott Foundas at Variety writes:
"Dern is simply marvelous in a role the director reportedly first offered to Gene Hackman, but which is all the richer for being played by someone who was never as big of a star. Looking suitably disheveled and sometimes dazed, he conveys the full measure of a man who has fallen short of his own expectations, resisting the temptation to overplay, letting his wonderfully weathered face course with subtle shades of sorrow, self-loathing and indignation. Given the less innately attention-getting role (a la Tom Cruise in “Rain Man”), Forte does similarly nuanced work, his scenes with Dern resonating with the major and minor grievances that lie unresolved between parents and children. Had Payne not already used it, “The Descendants” would have been an equally apt title here, so acute is the film’s sense of the virtues and vices passed down from one generation to the next."
Jamie Graham at Total Film likes the movie, but doesn't think it will be as popular with audiences or with the Academy as Payne's last film, The Descendants:
"Nebraska is unlikely to attract the box office rewards or Academy attention of his last film, The Descendants, starring George Clooney – it’s shot in low contrast black-and-white and gifts its father-son leads to Bruce Dern and Will Forte – but it is altogether superior.Dern plays Woody Grant, a Montana resident who begins the movie shuffling along the highway until he’s retrieved by the sheriff. His proposed destination, delightfully, is Nebraska, and it seems he doesn’t even have a lawnmower to get him there."
Finally, Peter Bradshaw the The Guardian (UK) writes:
"Along with these hard truths, the movie has a soft heart. Perhaps punches are being pulled, just a little. It doesn't stop Nebraska from being a thoroughly sweet and charming movie, and a reminder of Dern's quality as an actor."