Deeply moving, charming, a great character driven piece of personal reflection on life, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska is a fantastic film about a man re-connecting with his father. It’s also this comedic and respectful portrait of middle America, as the characters travel from Montana to Nebraska, the idiosyncrasies of the culture are on display but it’s never exploitative.
Woody Grant played Bruce Dern believes he has won $1,000,000 and he he’s committed to collect his winnings from the address listed in Nebraska. It is very clearly a scam for magazine subscriptions but Woody’s old and confused and can’t comprehend this. His unrelenting desire to go Nebraska is putting a strain on his family, June Squibb who plays his wife, Will Forte and Bob Odenkirk play his sons become split on how to deal with Woody’s deteriorating mind. David played by Forte, needing an escape from his life for a few days, decides to placate his father and take him to Nebraska. While traveling they stop by to see family in Hawthorne, Nebraska where David learns more about his father.
The talented cast brings across a real human spirit to their characters, it’s quieter subtle work from these actors which adds a great deal of soul to the film. Will Forte impresses in a dramatic performance as he learns about his father’s life but the powerhouses of the film are Bruce Dern and June Squibb. Dern’s work as Woody in this film is incredible, he seems completley delusional at first but there is a deeply layered man with the character and Dern’s ability to convey powerful emotions without a word is striking. Squibb is hilarious in this film, a foul-mouthed old woman but loving mother and wife who has no patience for Woody’s delusions. Hawthorne, Nebraska is where Woody grew up and after it’s made known that Woody has won 1 million dollars he becomes a local celebrity.
It’s hilarious how quick the treatment of Woody and David changes, by friends and by family. No matter how many times David says the money’s not real, everyone just winks, says sure and makes a passive aggressive comment. It’s ridiculous how the whole situation escalates but its built-in reality, its such a natural development on how people would act around a acquaintance acquiring a large amount of money. The supporting cast of character actors bring such authenticity to the world of the film, you can really relate to the situations in the film such as the great awkward family greetings, all the men sitting silently watching football on the television.
Nebraska visual style of being in black and white gives the film an extra layer of beauty. It would actually be weird to this film in colour, Payne’s vision of the film allows for the story to explore the past. With a deeply satisfying ending, you leave Nebraska reflecting on one’s own personal history, relationships with parents and where life will take us.