Nebraska: What You Need To Know
Who’s in it?
Alexander Payne, the man behind a number of quirky but charming films like Sideways and About Schmidt, is in the director’s chair for this father and son road trip tale starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte. There are also appearances from June Squibb, Stacy Keech and Bob Odenkirk, better known to most as Breaking Bad’s shady lawyer Saul Goodman.
What’s the plot?
Woody Grant (Dern) is an ageing, drink-addled father living out his retirement in the sleepy town of Billings, Montana when he receives a letter from Mega Sweepstakes Marketing advising him he has won a million dollars. It’s a scam, of course, but Woody is suffering from dementia and is stubbornly convinced the letter is real, so he decides to head to Lincoln, Nebraska, where the magazine distributor who sent the letter is based, to claim his winnings. His son David (Forte) decides to accompany him on his trek since it seems to be the only way to convince him the letter isn’t genuine.
Nebraska also happens to be where Woody grew up, so on the way they stop off at his hometown of Hawthorne where they are joined by Woody’s wife Kate (Squibb) and his other son Ross (Odenkirk). Before long, news of Woody’s supposed big win starts to circulate and the residents begin to take an interest, some more than others. One such resident is Ed Pegram, a former business partner of Woody’s who feels he is owed a cut of the loot, believing David’s assertions that his father isn’t really a millionaire to be a ruse in order to swindle him out of the money he is owed.
Does it deliver?
Payne handles the story with a deft touch and there are some great performances from Dern and Forte, while June Squibb almost steals the show with her character Kate having some of the film’s funniest lines (“I ain’t fiddling with no cow titties, I’m a city girl!”). What seems like a straightforward road-trip movie has various other dimensions to it, particularly the father-son connection and David’s struggle to communicate with a father he doesn’t really understand, made even more difficult by the onset of Woody’s dementia. Underneath it though is an examination of America’s cultural and moral decline, which the film tackles subtly without ever labouring the point.
The cinematography is also rather beautiful and loses nothing through Payne’s decision to film in black and white. If you enjoyed Payne’s other films you’ll love it, but even if you haven’t seen films like Sideways, Nebraska manages to be thought provoking as well as funny and the colour absent from the pictures is more than made up for by its presence in the various weird and wonderful characters encountered on the journey, so we’d highly recommend giving this quirky film a go.
Nebraska is available on DVD & Blu-Ray in hmv stores from Monday April 14th