From Academy Awardr winner Alexander Payne, the director of Sideways and The Descendants, comes the film that critics are calling “An American Masterpiece.” When a father (Bruce Dern) and his adult son (Will Forte) embark on a journey to claim a million-dollar prize, what begins as a fool’s errand becomes a search for the road to redemption. Discover why Nebraska is “one of those movies I’ll watch for the rest of my life.”
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful.
I Agree With the Golden Globes
By Jay B. Lane
When a JayFlix.net participant tells me to see a movie, I usually do! This time is no different, and, as usual, I’m really glad I did. (And the Golden Globes agreed with five nominations.) In my personal experience, I have… TWICE… heard that someone had won a sweepstakes, only to learn that it was early onset senile dementia or in the other case, Alzheimer’s. This is what we suspect when our elderly hero sets out for Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his million dollars. Problem is, he no longer has a working vehicle, nor does he have a driver’s license, so he’s walking… from Montana. His son is pulled into the story by his besieged wife.Full disclosure, I spent my early years on a farm in South Dakota, so the set design, the clothes, the speech patterns, the scenery, the pace, the people, and the small faded towns of Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska evoked fond memories. (No, I didn’t have an unhappy childhood, sorry…)We watch: * Bruce Dern (“Madison”) is the booze-addled curmudgeon who wants his million dollars. Dern has worked for decades before landing this role of a lifetime! He won “Best Actor” at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. * Will Forte (“Saturday Night Live”) is his unfortunate son, unable to talk his father out of that haywire obsession. * June Squibb (“About Schmidt”) is the wife with a tongue like barbed wire. She has lashed her husband for decades until he rarely hears a word she says. * Bob Odenkirk (Lots of TV) is the “good” son who has landed a job as a television newscaster. When he gets into a fight he shouts, “Don’t hit the face!” * Stacy Keach (Lots of television) is a former business partner who sees this unexpected windfall as a way to collect some money from our hero.It’s difficult to realize that all those authentic relatives and neighbors were actors! Director Alexander Payne (“Sideways”) has evoked astonishingly pure performances, bona fide settings, and credible situations. This tiny little R-rated domestic dramedy is no more than a tempest in a teapot, but we come to care a great deal about what happens to these people.Payne doesn’t often make movies, but when he does….Oh My! Amazon will notify me when the DVD is available.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful.
A very good film and a look at modern Americana
By M. Oleson
Theatrical review. There may be spoilers.Director Alexander Payne delivers another piece of Americana and like his 2004 film “Sideways,” it’s a road tripper. Early on one is reminded of Peter Bogdonovich’s “The Last Picture Show.” The vast landscapes of the great plains of Montana, South Dakota and ultimately Nebraska replace flat and dusty north Texas, but like the 1971 masterpiece, Payne chooses to shoot in black and white.Aging and on the cusp of dementia, Woody Grant (wonderfully played by Bruce Dern) believes he has won a million dollars. He’s received one of the Publisher’s Clearing House promotions and is determined to get from his home in Billings to Lincoln in order to collect his winnings. His cranky wife, Kate (award-worthy June Squibb) won’t take him so he makes a couple failed attempts at walking. His youngest son David (Will Forte) finally agrees to take him, just to keep him from wondering off on his own. Along the way, Woody falls in his motel room which requires a trip to the local ER. Woody’s mobility is not only impacted by his age but by the fact he sneaks in a drink whenever he can.David convinces Woody to stay with his brother Ray over the weekend in a small withering town in Nebraska. This is where Woody grew up. Word leaks out that Woody has won a million dollars and everyone in town assumes it is the lottery. Many of Woody’s old friends get quickly reacquainted especially his former partner played by Stacy Keach. Then of course, the nephews, and assorted in-laws all want a small piece of Woody’s “fortune.” Kate and Ross, the older son (Bob Odenkirk), join the reunion and help David keep things in check. This is where Ms. Squibb really shines. Cantankerous as she is, she loves her husband and wants to protect him. She has some great scenes confronting the relatives, but nothing better than when the family visits the local cemetery.While there is plenty of humor throughout the film, it really is a loving and realistic look at a past. Some good, some not. Angela McEwan has some memorable scenes as the local newspaper publisher and a former sweetheart of Woody’s. A very good film with some performances that will likely be noticed at Oscar time.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful.
A POSTCARD FROM NEBRASKA WHERE THE END OF THE ROAD MAY BE PAVED IN GOLD,
By Pippin O’ Rohan
On my way to “Nebraska” the other day on the bus going up Third Avenue in New York, it was bitter cold outside and two men and I, all strangers past sixty, smiled at each other in weather conspiracy. Finally the man sitting closest to the driver introduced himself from the Deep South, and mentioned jovially that he preferred this brisk chill, adding that he had worked for many years in Alaska where the temperature dropped sometimes to 53 degrees below. The man facing him, with silver hair and pale roses in his cheeks, was busy warming his hands and quietly added that when he was in North Korea, he had experienced the same thing. Turning in my direction, he murmured with a twinkle in his eyes ‘well, the whales are happy anyway’, to which I nodded amused, and then a light conversation began between the three of us.If I bring up this small anecdote, it is because it occurred to me how much these two contemporary Americans of mine have traveled, how much they probably know about America, and that one of these days I plan to pull out a map and start doing some homework on what I might call ‘The Heart of America’. There is a big difference between an American and a ‘New Yorker’, and while friends of all nationalities have traveled the States for years, my knowledge extends to a long summer in Bar Harbor, Maine when I was a child, a happy unusual one where thoughts of Maine always conjure up the scent of honeysuckle vines lingering in the warm air.But what about the State of Nebraska, as depicted by Alexander Payne, the director of this important new movie with a brilliant cast starring Bruce Dern and many others in a stellar performance? Mr. Payne was born in Nebraska by all accounts, and he takes the viewers on a journey that may be a memorable one for some of us in a myriad of ways. Filmed in black and white with stunning clarity, the opening begins with an old man, a derelict and vagabond by the looks of him, on a busy highway staggering painfully past the outskirts of the city of Billings in Montana with a mission in mind, and a young man by his side, his son David, attempting to stop him and argue the point with him. It is not the first time that Woody, his father, has tried to leave home in this way. He received via standard mail an embossed page of official-looking stationery addressed from Lincoln, Nebraska, announcing that he is the big prize winner of a $1 Million Sweepstakes Award, and the cash is just waiting for him to be collected. Elderly Woody is not taking any chances with this one and the mail delivery. He is on his way to Nebraska on foot, if necessary, to collect this sum with pride, and become a millionaire before his time runs out. He wants a new truck although he is no longer able to drive, and an air compressor which he lent to a close friend thirty years ago who never gave it back (later we run into this bully of a borrower and friend, and then further on to an ancient air compressor in a barn on another stop while driving slowly along on the country road).”Nebraska” is a story about a family but it is not a ‘family movie’. It takes place today during these uncertain times, and it is a serious topic that is of interest to a few of us depending on our different roles, responsibilities and age in life, not only in Nebraska but everywhere, when sobering and difficult choices have to be made, as we or our parents may be reaching the end of the road in some way. The couple depicted here, and born some time after WWI, Woody and Kate Grant have two sons Ross and David, the former considered somewhat of a success for being a newscaster on the local TV channel, the latter and younger one in a sludge job, where he is beginning to wonder whether he has any options left for a better life, and is operating in a vacuous indecisive rut.Their father Woody has always been indifferent to them. He’s one tough old bird, and while working on the treadmill of life with a heavy fortifying bottle in hand, he has always been absent from the concept of family, offspring and friends. One has the feeling that Woody has never been that interested in people to begin with, with perhaps one exception long ago, which leaves him looking briefly sad on recollection. Kate, their mother with a loud and foul mouth, is the strong feisty one here and might be called by some of the viewers ‘a piece of work’, while never giving into feelings of surrender, or defeat. She’s had it however with her husband who was considered somewhat of a wild catch in his heyday, while her sons are arguing whether it is time to place ‘the old man’ in a home for his own safety and their sanity. Although they are both sour about their father, David finally decides reluctantly to travel this last journey of unreality with his father, take a few days off from work to drive him to Nebraska, and essentially look after his parent who is now helpless.As a choice of characters, this viewer’s attention lay focused on how David, a mild-mannered if tenacious man in his early middle-years, was going to handle this trip: whether to mend bridges with his callous father who is sinking into dementia, or simply as an act of good faith for himself in the end. Perhaps for both reasons, as the case may be. And here they go on an adventure, taking them from one state to another, with a brief side visit to their relatives and acquaintances whom they haven’t seen in years, and were most likely planning never to see again in the fictional town of Hawthorne, Nebraska.Kate, followed by her other son Ross, decides to join them at some point so that she is not left out of the party, and because ultimately she cares in her own unsentimental way about her family. Before they show up however, Mr. Woody Grant, to the exasperation and frustration of his son, has told everybody on the road to Nebraska that he is now a millionaire, and they in turn are all suitably impressed with glee in their eyes – a millionaire among their midst! Lots of congratulations and back-slapping are in order, followed by family meals, the appearance of lost best friends and neighbors, some old pals clamoring for past loans of various kinds, and Woody’s inevitable bar-hopping to the only joint in the small poverty-stricken forsaken Hawthorne, where the healthiest past-time for senior men is pulling out a chair in front of one’s house and watch the grass struggle to grow. As for the rest of the story-line in what is termed as a slow-paced movie, the time flew for this viewer and was pitch-perfect in so many ways. Others may have much more to add to Woody’s quest, and determine whether there is in fact a conqueror of gold on this expedition to Nebraska.There is nothing maudlin in this portrait of realism, and the flavor of the picture is as real as home-made apple pie. It is stark, bleak and powerful in a quiet way. Darkly funny in its portrayal of the lifestyle and behavior of some of its characters, and as comical as life can be on occasion, this viewer and her movie companion ducked at times in disbelief and laughter. The variety of expressions alone from the people depicted, along with their posture and stance, is enough to engender a stunned reaction of mixed mirth and sobriety. Not everybody is going to feel this way, of course, and may wish with validity that none of this is happening. They may start sitting up straighter in their seats, and look at the expansive view before them unraveling, with stony serious eyes.But, on another note, the vision of space and wide-open skies in rural Nebraska is breath-taking in scope, and when Woody is revisiting his abandoned family home, looking silently at an immense barren field, it is not so much what he may be thinking, but what he is feeling at this poignant moment. And then there are some other tender moments to be found in this whole scenario of a brilliant movie that some of us may have experienced in both different and similar ways; some feelings that one can relate to, without feeling too uncomfortable in the process.The audience here at first viewing? A generous senior one, with few exceptions, on a week-day before the holidays to our surprise, as we expected an empty theater at this time of year. When my friend and I stepped out onto the second floor of the theater slightly subdued afterwards yet with a tinge of elation, a sighting of one of the most expensive stores in Manhattan hit us in the eye with a slight punch. ‘Timely’, I ventured quietly, thinking of the vast poverty we had just witnessed. ‘Glad I didn’t see it alone’, my friend replied with a flinch in her voice, causing me to wonder as she is rarely unsettled and has great strength and endurance in her character. And then an elegant woman of a certain age turned to us with gentle wise eyes, raising a finger to her lips, and we joined her solemnly in reading the large movie placard on an easel describing Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska” in more detail.Later, as we walked together in the brisk late winter afternoon, I asked my movie companion who travels America for a living and just became a U.S. citizen after forty years: ‘Is it really like that? When shall we go? How long would we last?’, and as I listened to what she had to say about what she knew, I felt it was all true. ‘Did you notice that Payne left out any sights of children, young people, or animals in his movie? ‘Perhaps to keep our focus on this somewhat forgotten senior population?’, I reflected. ‘The younger generation is leaving and coming to the cities now, and perhaps it is one of the many reasons that there is such a demand for housing at the moment in New York’.But when I reached home, and from the little I read about Nebraska, it appears that the pulse of this homeland State is beginning to be one of the first to revive at a steadfast pace, and here I shall simply say to Mr. Payne in conclusion: ‘Thank you for bringing the temperature of Nebraska to us in such a rich and rewarding way’. A difficult and sensitive masterpiece of his that this viewer intends to see again with even greater interest than the first time, and with more in-depth understanding.
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