"NEBRASKA" is a father and son road trip, from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska that gets waylaid at a small town in central Nebraska, where the father grew up and has scores to settle. Told with deadpan humor and a unique visual style, it's ultimately the story of a son trying to get through to a father he doesn't understand. Written by
Alexander Payne is one director who marches to the beat of his own drummer - films in Nebraska, uses black and white, and casts some parts locally to get the correct flavor. He doesn't miss a note.
Nebraska is the story of a family of usual dysfunctionals living where else but Nebraska - a quiet, distant father with a little dementia, Woody (Bruce Dern), his two sons, David and Ross (Will Forte and Bob Odenkirk), and their perpetually complaining mother Kate (June Squibb). David sells home electronics and just broke up with his girlfriend; Ross works for a news station and recently replaced the "talent" up front.
The current major problem is that Woody has received something akin to a Publisher's Clearing House certificate telling him he's won a million dollars. All he has to do is buy these magazines and check if the numbers are his. All Woody sees is that he won a million dollars. No one will take him to Lincoln to claim his prize so he starts walking - more than once - until David says he will take him.
On the way, they stop by his parents' home town and drop in on Woody's brother and his family - a scary bunch. Kate takes a bus in and shows David around the cemetery in a scene you'll never forget, trust me. Woody runs into his old partner, Ed (Stacy Keach), and as word spreads that Woody is going to be a millionaire, everybody wants a piece of him, including Ed, who says Woody owes him quite a bit.
This is really a character-driven film, with some of the most vibrant, fleshed-out characters ever on screen and some of the starkest landscapes, filmed in black and white, and giving the viewer the feeling of what it's like to live among miles and miles of farmland interspersed with small towns.
Bruce Dern gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a lifelong alcoholic who has escaped inside himself, a man out of touch and seemingly untouched by any events around him. As the outspoken Kate, June Squibb is absolutely hilarious - always yelling at Woody, threatening to put him in a home, complaining about him, but just don't let anybody take advantage of him, or you'll have to deal with her.
The sons mirror their parents, with David quiet and thoughtful but trying to bond with his father, and Ross, more confident and less sympathetic.
In learning about his father's background, in talking with his old girlfriend (Angela McEwan) David begins to see the man that his father once was and what shaped him. And he finds out that love is sometimes an unspoken thing, but it's there all the same.
A wonderful film, powerful in its simplicity. Don't miss it.
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