Around half an hour into Nebraska
, the seventh film from director Alexander Payne
, a father and son stand at the side of the road and stare at Mount Rushmore. The duo are on a road trip from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska
, but at the son’s behest, they take a small detour to gaze at the massive rock sculpture. That mountain is best remembered as the location for a big, action-packed climax in Alfred Hitchcock
’s North by Northwest
; meanwhile, in Payne’s intimate, more sentimental comedy-drama, Mount Rushmore is small and distant. The father looks at it disapprovingly. “It’s just a bunch of rocks,” he quips, aching to get back into the car and drive away.
By this point of Payne’s film, moviegoers might be tempted to say the same thing about Bruce Dern
, the prolific character actor who plays the father. He is just a grizzled old bunch of rocks,