Film Review – Nebraska – Directed by Alexander Payne
Release Date – February 20th 2014
Everybody needs something to live for. And in the case of Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) it’s the promise of one million dollars that he believes he’s won in the mail from the Mega Sweepstakes marketing company.
It’s a belief he clings to throughout the film, right up until the moment he makes it to Nebraska to claim his prize from the company’s offices.
His son David Grant (Will Forte) is the only person willing to indulge the old man’s fantasy and the two embark on a road trip as a chance to get to know one another while they still have the chance.
Woody says almost nothing the entire journey, but when David starts to ask the right questions of his elderly alcoholic father, he unravels a life lived full of regret and things that might have been or never were.
The male of the species, myself included, we need out MOJO. and when we can no longer earn the right to it from our relationships, our careers, our hobbies or our habits, then we find a way to take it by any means necessary.
As the news spreads about Woody’s lucky break (nobody else understands the money is just a dream), he begins to show the faintest glimmer of a tiny wry smile as he receives plenty of attention he’s getting as revisits the places of his younger days.
In so many ways this is a bleak film about a decrepit man shot in a bleak fashion – black and white that’s more grey than monochromatic – set in towns that look broken, traveling across a country that’s seen better days.
It’s a film that explores the decisions we make in life and where those choices lead us. It particularly examines what haopens when we allow other people to make our choices for us.
Davis is a bright enough man that he can see that history repeats, and he’s going to learn what he can from his dad while he still can, so he can avoid the same pitfalls that put his father where he is.
A war veteran who married the wrong woman and gave up on his dreams once he had kids he never really wanted, it’s a big call to ask us to root for this guy, but there’s something so human about Woody that we forgive all his mistakes.
When we arrive late in the film at the homestead where Woody grew up, we see the hard life he’s lived and the horrible hand he’s been dealt, and what transpires between father and son after this is really beautiful.
The observations about marriage and friendship, about fame and fortune make this story one to cherish.