AFTER the glitz and schmaltz of “Disney meets Mary Poppins creator” and the all-singing-all-dancing extravaganza of special effects in Gravity comes a film to bring us back down to Earth with a bump. Shot in black and white, Nebraska is a “depression-era movie” about elderly Montana resident Woody (Dern) who sets off to claim the $1 million lottery win he believes is his after receiving a piece of junk mail. His son David (Forte) decides he has to accompany (and protect) his father, who is in the preliminary stages of dementia.
And so from the American auteur who brought us Sideways, about two college pals discovering themselves while on a wine-tasting tour of Santa Barbara comes another road buddy movie, only this time the friends are dad and son and the key theme of hedonism is replaced with austerity.
Their trip takes them off the freeway into the open plains of Nebraska, where Woody was born and met his wife, Kate (Squibb). In this post-sub-prime recession era, the landscape is drab and the people dirt-poor — pretty much the way they were when Woody left as a young married man.
The story is seen through the eyes of the son, and in true road-trip style, it’s the characters they meet along the way who give shape and texture to his journey of self-discovery — mom Kate who joins them on their escapade and relatives who soon bring old family feuds bubbling to the surface.
This is a tale of generations and roots, of discovering your parents as individuals and thus discovering more about yourself.
It’s funny in places, as well as heart-warming, understated, intelligent and with some great performances. More than anything, it’s a great antidote to the excess of tinsel and fairy lights.
Director: Alexander Payne
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Stacy Keach