Movie Review: Nebraska
How well do we really know our parents? Nebraska is a journey for a father and son as they travel from Montana to Nebraska to cash in his prize ticket. Shot entirely in black and white the bleakness of the surroundings and the Midwest are magnified. Woody (Bruce Dern) is a simple man who is convinced he has won a “Publisher’s Clearing House type” contest and will get one million dollars. He’s so determined to claim it that he first attempts to walk to Nebraska all the way from Billings Montana. His 2 adults children have simple quiet lives. David (Will Forte) recently broke up with his girlfriend and works selling electronics. Ross (Bob Odenkirk) is married with kids and a local news anchor. The boys and their mother Kate played by a wise-cracking and hilarious June Squibb are aware of the fact that Woody didn’t win anything. Regardless nothing they say or do can convince him of that. After some thought David decides to drive his dad to Nebraska.
As David and Woody travel you see how unbalanced their relationship is. Woody is a drunk but does not acknowledge this. David has a perception of his dad based on how much Woody drank as he was growing up. While it appears Woody was never violent, he did seem to encourage his children’s underage drinking and his drunkenness was a burden. There are some comedic moments because of it though along the way. David sees this as ways to bond with his dad as an adult even if Woody isn’t thinking that. Occasionally during the trek to Nebraska, Woody drops little nuggets and stories about his life that David clearly never heard. Unable to know if its real or just his dad’s dementia is something that worries David.
When David and Woody stop along to way in Hawthorne, Nebraska against Woody’s issues David learns more about his father and his desire to not return. Hawthorne is a very bleak town, the film really takes a good look around to give you the feel that staying in Hawthorne is a dead end. Billings may not be wonderful buts its well about Hawthorne. Woody’s family of his many brothers and their children all seen well meaning till it comes out about his “prize winnings” Woody is completely unaware of how people are treating him in an attempt to cheat him. Even his old business partner Ed (Stacy Keach) decides to get what he believes he’s owed and he’s not above being as slimy as possible to get it done. David’s eyes are opened along this trip he finds out much more about his father than even Woody opens up to. A trip to the local newspaper reveals more about his dad when he was younger. Its still not a full eye-opener till Kate arrives by bus, and the previously uncaring Ross drives down as well and slowly starts to understand his father better.
Nebraska is full of laughs, its an odd mix because its very clear that the way people treat Woody borders on cruel, but outside of Woody’s own actions, Kate’s stories and rants repeatedly are amazing and there’s a set of bumbling cousins who also provide some comic relief. While Nebraska has some warm moments part of the fun is its still highly unpredictable. Sure you know at the beginning there is no prize money but there’s so many questions about Woody’s health his rampant drunken episodes, if David is just going to give up on him, you just don’t know where this is going and that’s a great part of it. The ending is very satisfying and touching. I do recommend you watch Nebraska. Its a film about family first and foremost and the comedic undertone works.
My Rating: Matinee
Director: Alexander Payne
Studio: Paramount Vantage
Release Date: In very limited release around the country
Run time: 1 hour 55 minutes
MPAA Rating: R