Directed by: Alexander Payne
Who among us hasn’t received a come-on-mail promotion that veritably shouts from the envelope “You could be a winner!” As most of us know, these solicitations are leader items that are attempting to induce us top purchase magazines or some such (Several years back this writer entered all of these “contests” without actually purchasing anything. We always knew we weren’t going to win whatever grand prize was being offered; we just wanted to play the game for a bit to see what we could possibly win. All he ever won was $50 off on $250 worth of suitcases or $10 off on $100 worth of knives.) Anyways, apparently not everyone is up to speed on how these things work.
Take Woody Grant (Dern) For instance. He recently received a letter apparently indicating that he won a million dollars. All he has to do is fill out the form and mail it back to Lincoln, Nebraska in order to collect the cool million sweepstakes money. Unwilling to trust his million to the US Postal service, he has determined to walk from his home in Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska in order to collect his winnings. The fact that he is some 850 miles away doesn’t seem to affect his decision to walk (and yes, Woody — who has been something of an alcoholic since he got back from Korea, and probably since before he left for the war —is a touch “altered” in his perception of the world around him.
He is absolutely convinced that he has won, and (much to the chagrin of his wife Kate (Squibb) is dead set on getting to Lincoln. So, his son David (Will Forte), finally concedes the point and agrees to drive his dad to Lincoln if only to prove that there is no million dollars to be had. Truth to tell, a good part of David’s reasoning to make such a silly trip is a) to shut his father up about the million bucks, and b) to possibly get a better understanding of his father is and finally connect with him on an emotional level. Needless to say, what starts out as a fools errand winds up becoming not only an eye-opening experience for David (he learns quite a bit more about both of his parents than he ever expected or even wanted to know), but he also comes to a better understanding of who he is, and even comes to appreciate his father than he ever had in the past.
Shot in Glorious black and white the entire film looks like an Ansel Adams photograph come to life, and packed with compelling earnest performances from the entire cast (most of whom are senior citizens) the film offers up an interesting look at what life is quite possibly like for a great part of the center of the Country, making this film well worth a trip out to you local theater to check it out, even in this frigid weather.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.