Oscar nominee review: Nebraska

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Shirley

Directed by The Descendants’ Alexander Payne, Nebraska is set in black and white but the characters, script and comedic knocks are colorful.

Actor Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, an elderly man who one day finds a sweepstakes letter in his mailbox saying he won a million dollars. Even though it’s clearly one of those scams they send to every sucker who don’t read the fine print, Woody decides to go and claim his “prize”- even if it takes a 800 mile walk from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska. Woody is cranky, stubborn and distant, but loveable for his frazzled determination. His son David, played by Will Forte (aka former SNL cast member and Jenna Maroney’s turbulent lover on 30 Rock) by some act of love (along with an acknowledgement of the fact that he has nothing better to do) agrees to drive him to pursue his dad’s inevitably disappointing fantasy.

Thus begins their journey to Nebraska, against the wishes of Woody’s wife, Kate, played by the very mouthy June Squibb, who relentlessly calls him a “dumb cluck.” Their trip takes them through Hawthorne, Kate and Woody’s hometown, where Woody’s brother and sister-in-law still live. They have two muscle-headed, freshly out-of-prison sons who are the first of many who realize that it wouldn’t be very hard to take advantage of this supposed millionaire. The town of Hawthorne is very quiet, and it doesn’t take much for the arrival of Woody and David (and later Kate) to start stirring up old drama.

This film isn’t an exciting one- there aren’t any complicated plot lines, suspenseful action scenes, or crazy antagonists. But it’s not a boring one either; it’s a calm, reflective kind of movie that I left from feeling kind of alone inside. Even though (spolier alert) Woody never gets his money he had hoped for, hoping is not something that’s discouraged in this movie; it’s just something that is most often met with disappointment.

But that doesn’t mean that people who hope are fools.  Nebraska is about living for reaching that point of satisfaction, whether it comes in the form of sitting in stuffed worn armchairs in front of the television, like Woody’s brothers in Hawthorne, or in the form of a truck, which is how Woody plans to use his million dollars. With this kind of optimism comes new adventures, new experiences and in the end, honest revelations.

Nebraska is nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Bruce Dern), Best Supporting Actress (June Squibb), Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography.