Elderly, not quite with it Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) receives a letter from a marketing firm claiming he has won a million dollars and must present the letter in Lincoln, Nebraska to claim his prize. Unfortunately, he lives hundreds of miles away in Billings, Montana and can no longer drive. So, the rest of the film is Dern trying to get to Lincoln, right? I’ll let you find out.
I will say that Nebraska looks beautiful. Phedon Papamichael’s black and white cinematography makes Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska look like an Ansel Adams photograph that moves. The combination of those breathtaking visuals and Mark Orton’s spare music brought to mind scenes from Badlands and Fargo.
Bruce Dern won the best actor award at Cannes this year. After seeing this film, I’m not surprised. In Dern’s Woody Grant we see character, not caricature and like all good character actors, Dern immerses himself in the role. I didn’t see Bruce Dern playing Woody Grant. I saw Woody Grant. He’s also surrounded by a talented cast of other character actors including Will Forte, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach, and June Squibb. Forte surprises with his subtle performance. Odenkirk, who’s in everything these days, works in another fine supporting role. Keach has a fun part and runs with it. June Squibb as Woody’s wife Kate dominates her every scene. If she doesn’t get a supporting actress nod, I’ll eat my hat. Rance Howard, Mary Louise Wilson, and a crew of solid character actors inhabit the world director Alexander Payne creates. Spare dialogue and desolate scenery combine to create the full picture of a man and the people and places that make up his life. Nebraska is a wonderful film.