An old man travels from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son to collect a million dollar fortune he believes he's won through a sweepstakes.
Directed by Alexander Payne
Written by Bob Nelson
Starring Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb,
Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach, Mary Louis Wilson,
Rance Howard, Tim Driscoll, Devin Ratray
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Actor (Bruce Dern),
Best Supporting Actress (June Squibb), Best Director,
Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography,
What struck me immediately with Nebraska was how relatable it is. We've all got weird relatives who think junk mail is the real deal. A film that follows an old man determined to win the million bucks he thinks he's won via sweepstakes? Call up Alexander Payne, the go-to guy for dramedies about the human experience. Plus, there's so few films made about the Midwest that aren't serial killer movies or movies about drug dealers. Nebraska is a nice change of pace, and a great vehicle for Bruce Dern, one of the most underrated character actors of all time, to stretch his legs as a leading man.
Dern plays Woody Grant, a sour, confused old man who has very little left to live for. He can't drive anymore, his kids all think he's nuts, and his wife wants him committed. But then he gets a letter saying he's won a million bucks, and all he has to do is go to Lincoln, Nebraska to get it. His younger son David (Forte) agrees to take him from Billings, Montana to Lincoln just so he doesn't hurt himself trying to get there alone. Along the way, they stop in Woody's hometown, where he becomes a local celebrity after telling everyone he's a millionaire. Of course, this dregs up some bad blood as well, opening up old wounds. In the end, of course Woody doesn't win anything, but the journey is what mattered. Leave it to Payne to make it work.
Nebraska is really funny at times, but also a serious family drama. There are moments, like when David finds out his dad cheated on his mom once, that are heartbreaking. And others, like when they're looking for Woody's false teeth, that are hilarious. Dramedies are funny like that. They can hit you hard in two places at the same time. Alexander Payne's filmography is mostly gems that I've enjoyed sitting through, and Nebraska is a solid effort.