When elderly Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) receives a notice in the mail that he has won a million dollars, he is determined to personally travel from his home in Montana to Nebraska in order to claim his winnings. No matter that everyone keeps trying to tell him that it is merely a cleverly worded advertisement intended to sell magazine subscriptions.
Half wanting to spend some time with his dad, and half just wanting to help him to get the crazy idea out of his system before hurting himself, Woody’s son David (Will Forte) agrees to drive him to the Cornhusker state. When circumstances cause them to be delayed as the stop in Woody’s old home town along the way, the trip doesn’t seem quite so simple anymore. Especially when certain people decide that it’s only fair that they get a little something for being friends and family.
Acclaimed director Alexander Payne presents this somewhat comedic tale in bleak black and white. For what reason? Well, it certainly helps with the effect of presenting the states of Montana and Nebraska as bleak and old, just like most of their inhabitants that we meet.
This is a slice of life film cut from the end of the metaphorical pie. It’s a reflection on life and people. Old people, mostly. I realize that my snarky reaction is mostly due to the fact that this is a film not made for my age group. Truth be told, Nebraska has some parts that are quite funny, and others that are sweet and touching. Dern gives a performance worth seeing as a man who just wants to do something with his life, but doesn’t have much of it left with which to do it.
Anyone that has spent time in a small town will surely get a kick out of the interactions between the people Woody grew up with. None of the characters though are especially colorful, and not just because of the type of celluloid used here. Everything about this film is a bit drab, with rarely any real humor. There are parts that are funny, but mostly in a sad, melancholy sort of way. Even the music is slow and sort of sad, even during parts of the film that should be happy.
Other than Dern, most of the actors here seem to be having trouble with their lines. Especially Forte. Each one is said so slow and deliberately, like the actors are doing a stage production or reading a teleprompter. I can’t help but think that this could be intentional as the desired audience may be hard of hearing.
Regardless of the fact that I am still too young to probably appreciate what Payne was going for here, I still wanted to like it. There is a lot to like, sprinkled throughout, with some very memorable and triumphant moments. But as a whole, it never comes together in a way that works for me. It’s too long, too slow, and isn’t a whole lot of fun.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“The screening was presented by the AARP. That should tell you who will find this movie funny.”
My rating: Two out of five hats
Nebraska expands this weekend, traveling to 28 theaters, November 22