In the new film, Nebraska, Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) thinks he has won $1,000,000.00 because of a letter he received from a company in Lincoln, Nebraska, so he tries to get to Lincoln from his home in Billings, Montana to collect the money.
Woody, a grouchy and confused eighty-something former war veteran, alcoholic, and father of two grown men is certain that he won $1,000,000.00. He is so certain that he starts walking on Interstate 90 to Lincoln, 898 miles from Billings. His son David (Will Forte) picks him up on the highway and takes him back home, back home to where his nagging wife, Kate (June Squibb) keeps on harking on about how absent-minded he is, and how silly he is to believe he won the money.
David, who works at a shop selling televisions and stereos, has just broken up with his girlfriend, (and doesn't seem to be too jealous about his brother Ross's (Bob Odenkirk) burgeoning career as a television newscaster), tires of hearing about his father's winnings, and offers to drive him. They embark on a father and son road trip through Wyoming and South Dakota (with a one-minute stop at Mt. Rushmore), and decided, after a short hospital stay and a conversation with Kate and Ross, to all go to Hawthorne for a family reunion. Once in Hawthorne, where Woody is from and where he and Kate met and got married, they stay at the house of Woody's brother, who has two fat, unemployed sons living with him. Woody opens his big mouth about winning $1,000,000, and soon almost everyone in town is asking for money, including long lost relatives who have come out of nowhere, and Woody's former business partner Ed (Stacy Keach). While in Hawthorne, the Grant family drives around while Kate comments about everything and everybody. (And her comments are never nice, they are rude and vile. She even calls her buried niece a slut.)
Ed and two of the cousins get hold of Woody's letter and see it's a letter to order magazine subscriptions with the chance of winning $1,000,000.00. Woody is then made the laughing stock of the town. But to appease his father and give him have some closure, they drive to Lincoln and go the company's office to check.
Dern gives a career performance as Woody, with his long grey hair and confused look, he plays the character of Woody to perfection. Dern is deserving of the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in this film, and for his long and established career in Hollywood, which includes more than 80 feature films, including Django Unchained, Wild Bill, Black Sunday, and the original The Great Gatsby. Forte, a former performer on America's Saturday Night Life television comedy program, is a revelation as the understanding son David. It is June Squibb as Kate who steals every scene she is in. She has nothing good to say about anyone, and her constant harking to Woody could be a sign of great affection for him, and also a sign that she knows Woody is on his last legs and that she will miss him dearly when he dies.
The script, by Bob Nelson, is sharp, crisp, funny, and heartwarming. There will probably not be a film this year that will touch you the way this film does. Nebraska is filmed in black and white to give it a raw, dramatic look. Directed with love and care by Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways), Nebraska is one of those films that will make you look at the relationship that you have with your parents. Expect Nebraska to clean up come film awards time in the next few months. It has already been nominated for six Independent Spirit Awards.