Rolling Midwestern flatlands are put on high display in Alexander Payne’s new film Nebraska.  Nebraska stars Bruce Dern as Woody Grant, an aging and naive man who thinks he won $1 million in a sweepstakes no matter how many people tell him it is a scam.  The film begins with Woody walking on the side of the road as he attempts to travel from his home in Billings Montana to Nebraska, where he is going to collect his $1 million that he won in a sweepstakes.  Woody is picked up and brought back to the police station, where they call his son David (Will Forte) to come pick him up.  On the drive home, David learns that Woody will stop at nothing to go to Nebraska to collect his prize money.  After another “escape” attempt, David agrees to drive his father to Nebraska despite opposition from his brother Ross (Bob Odenkirk) and hilariously outspoken mother Kate (June Squibb).  As expected, Woody and David run into obstacles along the way, and eventually get to Woody’s hometown Hawthorne Nebraska where his brother and family live.  Hawthorne is a small town, so once people begin to hear that Woody is now a millionaire he quickly becomes the talk of the town and craziness ensues.  Nebraska is a well acted character piece, shot in black and white, and highlights the dying towns of the Midwest and an attempt for a father and son to reclaim their relationship and their lives.

filmNebraska at its core is about the relationship of the Grant family, all perfectly cast, with many sure to be nominated for Oscars.  Bruce Dern plays the clueless Woody Grant perfectly in one of his best performances of his career.  Woody’s wife Kate was the funniest character in what was a very dry humored film.  June Squibb plays the outspoken Kate, who never even knew Woody wanted to be a millionaire.  Kate holds nothing back, and lets everyone know her opinion.  Some of the funnest lines in the film are delivered by Squibb, who you won’t believe says the things she does.  Dern and Squibb deserve nominations for their performances, and Will Forte was surprisingly good as David, who just wanted to spend time with his father.  The acting in Alexander Payne’s new film is on par with his other work, so I expect a few nominations come Oscar season.

nebraska-movie-photo-26The cinematography of Nebraska, shot in black and white, brilliantly displays the dying Midwestern towns which parallels the aging and dying Woody Grant.  The wide-angle shots put David and Woody’s trip on center stage, as the film takes us from Montana to Nebraska.  Half  of the movie is spent on the road, and once prosperous working towns are shells of their former selves as each town passes by through well shot establishing shots that truly help set the tone of the film.  Nebraska is a unique film, and there aren’t many like it which is a great thing.  Everything in the film felt natural, from the locations to the acting which seamlessly  draws you into the action where you take a ride to Nebraska with the Grants.

Nebraska is the first film directed by Payne in which he was not directly involved in writing the screenplay, but he did put some finishing touches and rewrote only a few things with the script.  The script like in all of his films thrives on its dry humor, which was perfectly exacted by the actors and captured by Payne.  At 110 minutes the film moves with a nice pace, never overstaying its welcome in one location.  The film flows at a nice speed, and has a incredibly satisfying ending which will leave most content.

About the Author

Peter Towe
Peter Towe
A graduate of UMASS Boston, I have successfully put off getting a "real" job, and continue to watch, produce, review, and obsess over movies. I lived in Boston while I completed my degree, and now live in Chicago trying the improv thing.