In the tradition of
(1955), Kansas (1988), Texas
(1994), and South Dakota (2013), comes Nebraska (2013), a movie
that takes place in the Midwestern United States. (Sorry North Dakota – there’s no movie named
after you, although there is 1996’s Fargo.)
Director Alexander Payne loves setting movies in his home state of Nebraska (i.e. Election,
About Schmidt), but surprisingly he didn’t write the screenplay for this
film. It’s the first film where he
hasn’t directed his own story. You
wouldn’t know it from the film, though.
There are a number of Payne touches in it. In fact, it’s sort of a re-imagining of About
Schmidt, although done better. Nebraska has more humor
in it than I was expecting. No, it’s not
as funny as Election, but it certainly does have its moments.
The film opens with Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) walking out of his home town of
and being stopped by a policeman. His long-suffering son David (Will Forte)
goes to the police station to retrieve his elderly father. David asks him what the heck he was
doing. Woody explains that he was
walking to Billings, Montana .
That’s 850 miles for those not familiar with the geography. When David asks why, Woody says it’s because
he wants to claim his million dollars.
Woody shows him one of those come-ons that arrive in the mail all the
time saying you’ve won lots of money and to get in touch to claim it (and
incidentally, buy a bunch of magazines, too.)
Woody says he doesn’t trust the mail, he isn’t allowed to drive anymore,
and his wife Kate (June Squibb) refuses to drive him. David tries to explain to his dad that he
didn’t really win, but Woody is having none of it. The next day Woody starts walking again. And again.
(Resemblances to 1999’s The Straight Story are probably
intentional. The star of that film,
Richard Farnsworth, also received a Best Actor Oscar nomination.) Lincoln, Nebraska
David finally gives up and agrees to drive to
Lincoln with his dad. They stop along the way in a little town in Nebraska where Woody was
born and raised. A brother of his is
still there and they decide to make a weekend family reunion of it. Kate and their other son Ross (Bob Odenkirk)
come down to join them. Woody couldn’t
care less about seeing his family or visiting his old town; he just wants his
million bucks. Naturally Woody starts
talking and soon family and friends are coming out of the woodwork, all
thinking he’s struck it rich. This includes
an old business partner of Woody’s, Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach).
Woody isn’t a very likable person. He’s a drunk, didn’t have much use for either a wife or sons, and never really amounted to anything. He’s as stubborn as you can get. And when you put him together with his brothers you find out that the family name might as well have been “Taciturn”. Dern received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. It’s his first such honor in 35 years (1979’s Coming Home.)
Woody’s wife Kate is the polar opposite. She’s outgoing and doesn’t have a single good thing to say about anybody, especially Woody. Mention a name and she’s got a piece of gossip about how a woman was “whoring around” or how a guy wanted to get into her pants. She gets a lot of the best lines in the film. Much of the humor comes from her, too. It’s probably why she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Forte does “long suffering” with the best of them in this film. Frankly, I wouldn’t have put up with what his character does in this film. After a few such attempts to walk to
I would have said, “You know what, Dad? Go for it.” Lincoln, Nebraska
In one of the most ridiculous decisions to come from the MPAA in, well, probably not very long knowing the MPAA, they gave
Nebraska an R rating for
containing “some language”. The film has
a total of two, count ‘em two, F-bombs in it.
That’s it. There’s no sex, no
nudity, and no violence other than a punch being thrown. It’s a quiet little family drama that happens
to have two F-bombs, neither of them even related to sex. The film probably would get the equivalent of
a PG rating in other countries. Even
here in the U.S.
it should have been no more than a PG-13.
This is a slow moving film, so if that’s not your cup of tea then you may want to avoid it. For everyone else, if it sounds interesting then I recommend you give it a try.
Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars