Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: Bob Nelson
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Woody Grant is an old man with a history of alcoholism and is now suffering from dementia. When he receives a scam letter telling him that he has won one million dollars, he decides that he wants to go to Lincoln, Nebraska to personally collect his “winnings.” His son David, knowing this isn’t real, decides that he will drive his father to Lincoln personally. On the way, they stop in Woody’s hometown of Hawthorne to visit his brother, and there David finds out more about his father’s past than he ever knew, since his father is a man of few words, and they discover who their friends really are.
“Nebraska” is a wonderful and touching film about a son discovering who his father really is as that man slowly slips away. Veteran character actor Bruce Dern finally gets his day in the lead role of Woody Grant, and, oh boy, does he knock it out of the park. June Squibb is wonderfully comical as Woody’s wife, Kate, who never stops talking and doesn’t seem to have any filter. Despite having a bit of a cantankerous relationship, it’s clear that they still care for each other.
The choice to shoot this film in black and white is interesting. Shooting in black and white is an incredibly difficult feat, as the lighting and camera control become so important to provide a contrast usually provided by color. But I can understand the choice. This is a character-centric movie. And constantly flooding the screen with views of colorful sweeping plains (this is Nebraska, afterall) behind the characters would be distracting. But it also gives the movie an older feel. We’re looking into Woody’s past, and the black and white visuals give us a feeling that we are seeing something old, as well gives the film a minimalist tone.
This is a touching and funny film that has deep layers despite its initial stark appearance. Alexander Payne has a talent for making light comedies that can still strike a serious note, and it’s worth the time to watch this film.
“Nebraska” earns 4 out of 5 stars.