Nebraska (2013)

Nebraska (2013)

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Woody was aghast at how big that chicken had become.
Woody was aghast at how big that chicken had become.

Twitter Plot Summary: Woody thinks he’s won $1 million, so in a bid to keep him happy he’s driven to Nebraska by son David to collect his winnings.

Genre: Adventure/Drama

Director: Alexander Payne

Key Cast: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach, Mary Louise Wilson, Rance Howard, Tim Driscoll, Devin Ratray

Five Point Summary:

1. Woody is determined to get to Nebraska…
2. Son David steps into the mix. Looks like we got ourselves a road trip!
3. June Squibb and the graveyard. Hilarious.
4. Woody gets a prize.
5. Good for you, David! Good for you! Etc.

Woody Grant (Dern) has received a letter in the post telling him that he’s won $1 million. The catch is, he has to get from his home in Montana to the competition office in Nebraska in order to claim his prize. Of course, everybody but Woody knows that it’s a marketing scam, but he’s having none of it. So a road trip begins as youngest son David (Forte) volunteers to take his dad to Nebraska and collect his money. Or, rather, discover that he’s not actually won anything. On the way they stop over in Woody’s old home town where news of his win spreads quickly and before long everybody’s slithering over to him asking for a handout.

Nebraska works on so many levels, it’s hard not to like it. The family dynamic is explored in great detail, and the way people in general react to the apparent good fortune of someone they know is nicely observed. The fact it’s shot in black and white barely deserves a mention, although for completeness’ sake I fear I must. The black and white style essentially makes the story timeless. Okay, so there are plenty of modern distractions on show, but in essence it could be a story told at any time past, present or future. Combining excellent cinematography with a good soundtrack is often one of the things I look out for in a movie, and Nebraska scores a big tick on that front – Mark Orton’s gently depressing score combines perfectly with Phedon Papmichael’s gorgeously shot Nebraska landscapes.

Odenkirk recounts his time spent as a lawyer for a meth dealer.
Odenkirk recounts his time spent as a lawyer for a meth dealer.

June Squibb as Woody’s long-suffering wife is a joy. She’s acerbic and quick to criticise almost everybody, but she’s also incredibly funny whilst doing so. Most of the laughs for me were via this character. The graveyard scene in particular is laugh out loud funny and is perhaps one of the funniest scenes I’ve viewed this year. Of course, she’s not the focus of this particular story – it’s all about son David and his relationship with dad Woody. Over the course of their journey David discovers a lot about his parents and family history that he was previously not privy to, and subequently starts to discover a few things about himself. He’s clearly not happy with his life in the first instance otherwise he wouldn’t have volunteered to take Woody on the trip. Bruce Dern is on top form as Woody, a man of few words who’s on the very edge of full on-set dementia. Then there’s Will Forte as David, putting in a surprisingly restrained performance compared to his usual material. Rounding off the central cast are Stacy Keach as old bully Ed Pegram, Woody’s old business partner and Bob Odenkirk as David’s older brother Ross. Keach is in menacing form as Pegram, almost but not quite threatening David and his family in a bid to get his hands on some of the money. Odenkirk is as entertaining as ever and seems to enjoy playing the role of concerned older brother.

Nebraska may not be the most showy film released this year, but it’s full of heart, affection and filled with characters that are never anything less than entertaining.

Favourite scene: David and Ross steal an air compressor from the wrong barn.

Quote: “Have a drink with your old man. Be somebody!”

Silly Moment:  Stacy Keach doing karaoke.

Score: 5/5

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