Old-timer Woody Grant (played by Bruce Dern) is badly in need of a shave and a haircut. He’s married to a nagging wife and has always had a drinking problem. (“You’d drink too if you were married to her!”) He has two middle-aged sons named David and Ross. Ross is a TV newscaster. David sells stereos and has an unhappy personal life. When Woody receives a piece of junk mail telling him he has won a million dollars, he takes it literally, not seeing that it’s just a marketing scam to get people to buy magazines. He sets off on foot from his home in Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska, to claim his million dollars. When the police pick him up walking along the highway and take him back home, his son David decides to drive him to Lincoln so the two of them can spend some time together and stop off and visit relatives.
Woody tells people he has won a million dollars and they believe him. When Woody and David end up in Woody’s old home town of Hawthorne, Nebraska, Woody is something of a celebrity. All the people he knew from long ago are either envious or admiring of his newly acquired wealth. Woody encounters an old business partner who, believing that Woody owes him money from when they owned a garage together, wants part of Woody’s winnings—and threatens legal action if it’s not given willingly. Then certain family members, remembering that Woody borrowed money from them in the distant past and never repaid it, want “reparation.” A pleasant family gathering turns into a brawl.
Nebraska is shot in crisp black and white (the Nebraska landscape is an important element in the movie) and is beautifully written and acted. Bruce Dern is perfect as Woody Grant. His wife, Katy (played by June Squibb, who I remember seeing as Jack Nicholson’s creepy wife in About Schmidt), has some of the funniest lines in the movie. Name somebody from her past and she’s ready to trash-mouth them. (There’s a funny scene in a cemetery where she’s talking about some of Woody’s deceased family members.) Woody’s son, David (played by Will Forte), is sympathetic and patient, the kind of son you would want in your old age. There are no thrills and chills, no big moments, no computer-generated effects, car chases or boudoir scenes, but if you can do without those things, it’s hard not to like Nebraska.
Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp