Alexander Payne’s poignant and heartfelt slice of Midwestern reality never strikes a false cord. Bruce Dern as “Woody Grant”, walking from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his million dollar sweepstakes prize, is riveting; he captures the ageing paranoia, painful frustrations of a man whose options and life are close to the finish line; grasping at any illusion to starve off the horrific boredom of his mundane existence. We know the Woody Grant’s of the world and recognize the desperation and fear as the sand, in time’s hour glass, slowly sinks, dissipating with each sunset.
Will Forte as “David”, Woody’s younger son gives a subtle, sensitive and brilliant depiction of a bemused, befuddled man trying to satisfy and placate his delusional father. Their road trip to “Nebraska” is a revelation for David; he slowly becomes cognizant of Woody’s foibles, affairs, vicissitudes and generosity; love grows as bewilderment fades.
June Squibb gives a remarkable performance as the salty, salacious “Kate”, Woody’s ranting, long -suffering wife; one would be hard- pressed to determine who got the worst end of the bargain in this scenario; a miniscule spark of concern saves it from a “Virginia Woolf” pairing.
Filmed in black and white “Nebraska” holds the viewer captive, unable to shrink from the veracity and inevitability of the human condition; waning and depressed towns; youth has fled, octogenarians waiting for “whom the bell tolls.” Woody and David, dignified and triumphant, victorious in salvaging, making sacred, a father/son relationship.
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!