I have always considered Bruce Dern, 77, one of the finest character actors in Hollywood. In “Nebraska” Dern gets the role of lifetime playing the lead role, and also lands a nomination for Best Actor at the Academy Awards.
Woody (Dern) is a beaten down, cantankerous old man living in Billings, Montana, who is convinced that he has won a million dollars based on a sweepstakes flyer that he has received in the mail. Neither his wife Kate (June Squibb), nor his two sons, David (Will Forte-Saturday Night Live) and Ross (Bob Odenkirk-Saul from Breaking Bad) can convince Woody that the sweepstakes is a scam and he is determined to get to Lincoln, Nebraska, to collect his winnings, even if he has to walk.
After David finds Woody wandering down the street in an attempt to walk to Lincoln, which is 900 miles away, he agrees to placate the old man and drive him there. At this point it is obvious that Woody is suffering the effects of dementia and alcoholism, and David would like to give him one last hurrah. The road trip now becomes the crux of the plot.
During the road trip, David passes through Woody’s old hometown of Hawthorn, Nebraska, where an impromptu family reunion takes place with his brothers and their families. The scenes are central to the plot as Woody’s past is revealed. Woody, who was considered the town drunk, was also an easy going man who owned a mechanics garage and was always willingly to lend a helping hand for free. When Woody informs his friends at the local drinking establishment that he has won a million dollars in a sweepstakes, the news spreads like wild fire and the rats emerge. Everyone, including members of his family wants a piece of the pie that doesn’t exist.
Director Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska” is beautifully shot in black and white which adds a bleak grimness to the movie. The characters used on the road trip scenes are spot on, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them weren’t plucked right off the streets of Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Idaho, where the movie was shot on location. The dialogue alternates from being very funny, to outright depressing; but it is always very interesting. This movie is a gem and I hope Dern wins an Academy Award for his performance. (Rated R; Runtime 1 hour and 55 mins.)
My Rating: 4 of 5 Sweepstakes Winners.