Nebraska

Director: Alexander Payne

Lead Actors: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach, Devin Ratay, Angela McEwan, Franklin Dennis Jones

Producer: Albert Berger

Plot Synopsis: We meet Woody Grant in black and white. He will stay that way through the entire movie.  He appears to be an almost senile old man, played well by Bruce Dern, as he walks hunched over, but with determination alongside a highway. A highway patrol officer approaches him and escorts him to the station.

This could be the cover to an indie album!


Hey, you look familiar, didn't we build
the ark together?


There, Woody's son, David Grant, picks him up, dubbing his dad "the man of the hour".

David takes his dad home where Woody's wife, Kate Grant, played beautifully by June Squibb, rips into Woody in every way possible. Woody slumps on to the couch and lets it all pass over. 

As Ross Grant, the other son, shows up and starts criticizing his nearly senile father, it becomes clear that some members of the family would like to put Woody into a nursing home.

Dave, though, doesn't seem to think his dad is to that point yet. This begins a cadence of Dave sticking up for Woody and Woody egging Dave on.

Dave finally asks his dad why he was walking along side the highway. This is when the plot is revealed: Woody has a letter from a magazine promotions company saying that he has won a million dollars, and that all he has to do is go to Lincon, Nebraska to pick up the money.

The Grants live in Billings, Montana, and according to the writers of the movie, Lincon is about 800 miles away from Billings. I mapquested, it's closer to 900 miles. Either way, that would have been a tough walk for Woody, but as a drive, not that bad.

As the movie goes along, we learn more about David, who is played wonderfully by Saturday Night Live standout Will Forte. He is a stereo sales man, and lives alone because he has recently broken up with his girlfriend. The reason they broke up, we learn when she stops by to get the rest of her stuff, is because nothing was happening, which suggests that David's life wasn't really going anywhere.

                                      Will Forte, who played David.



One of Forte's standout characters- MacGruber.

Ross, David's bother, doesn't seem as stuck as David. Ross is finally getting some "desk time" at the local news station because the usual anchor is going through a nasty infection. Ross is  played brilliantly by Bob Odenkirk, another giant in comedy. Television watchers will recognize him as the actor who played Saul Goodman from AMC's "Breaking Bad". If you're a big fan of comedy, you will recognize him from the cult hit, "Mr. Show".

If you pore over IMDB a lot, then you'll know that he wrote for Saturday Night Live at one point. In this movie, he is all high-pitched voice, midwestern charm and goofy white boy and he is perfect!


      Bob Odenkirk may be best known for Mr. Show, a sketch
                                         comedy show.

           Odenkirk in "Breaking Bad" as Saul Goodman.

Dave, though, in contrast, seems to be overly attached to his parents' home and he raids his mom's refrigerator for casserole.

Woody, at a critical point in the movie, tells Dave that he doesn't have much going on in his life.

He starts taunting  Dave about it, and finally Dave responds by agreeeing to take his dad to Lincon, which, as was mentioned before about an 900-mile drive, in his Subaru.  

As we learn later, how long it takes you to get from Billings to that part of Nebraska is a testament to not only how fast you drive - but it also says what kind of man you are!

And so, that is how  this movie begins - a son rising to one of his father's final taunts, and a trip that will show what kind of Man Woody is, and also what kind of man Dave really is.

"If you're not careful, you'll end up like him," says the never gentle Kate Grant to son Dave before the trip begins.

Who Would Like it and Why
Director Alexander Payne has an excellent batting average as a director, starting, for me, with the tawdry Election in 1999, then Sideways, which was an instant classic.

Mathew Broderick is no Ferris Bueller in
the comedy "Election", which put Alexander Payne
on the map!


Payne is also responsible for "About Schmidt", a Jack Nicholson vehicle and "The Descendants".

Payne's delicate touch is on display here in Nebraska. One of the biggest choices was to shoot the movie in black and white. This was a great choice! The midwest, or at least the part that was shown in this movie, looks great in black in white. 

The whole movie was like slowly leafing through a beautiful coffee table photography book about farming country and the Great Plains.

Payneful Comedy
Another example of Payne's expertise were the subtle but delicious comedic moments peppered all throughout Nebraska. I couldn't help think back to Sideways and Paul Giamatti running at rude golfers like a mad man, and then drinking the spit bucket at a winery, letting it gush all over his chest. 

This type of humor in Sideways was so very unique, but great. Nebraska has the same effect. I wouldn't have thought of it, but it's great, and you're not going to see it anywhere else but in an Alexander Payne movie.

Giamatti is about to charge golfers who are rushing
him and his friend. This scene is classic Alexander Payne
comedy.

Examples
There is one scene where the Grants are having a family reunion in Hawthorne, Nebraska, and everyone is in the living room, watching a football game. Anyone who wants to make conversation has to battle with the announcers on the television.

A conversation amongst the old men watching the game unfolds about what kind of car one of them used to drive. It goes on and on and on and none of them make eye contact. One of the men seems to think the other drove a Buick and that it was great, and the other insists it wasn't that great. It was a very funny scene.

Drama and Emotion
There is also drama and emotion in this movie. My favorite scene is when Woody tours the remains of his family home where he grew up. There is talk of a third brother who didn't make it past the age of two.

Dave asks his dad if he remembers when the brother died.

"I was there," Woody says out the side of his mouth. Then we see the remains of a crib. I felt that was well done.

The movie soon goes back to comedy though as the two younger brothers insist on stealing an air pressurizer they thought was taken from their dad and never given back. It turns out, they steal it from the wrong barn and have to give it back because the people they stole it from are "salt of the earth", according to Kate. 

Squibb's Kate Grant starts out as a nagging wife, but we see her true colors as the movie progresses - nagging wife but also fierce protector of her family and their pride. Her obsession with other people's sexual activity is amusing, especially when we learn that she "put out" early to win Woody over.

June Squibb's Kate Grant doing what she does best -chastising
and shaming the men in her family.

This is a great ensemble cast. We meet Angela Mcewan's Peg Nagy when David stops by the local newspaper to dispel a rumor. She is brilliant as we learn that she was one of Woody's early suitors. David is tender as he learns different sides to his dad that he didn't know existed.



Angela Mgewan offers a nice touch.
  


Who Might not Like it and Why
There are no bikinis, no Mark Wahlberg, and no machine guns and unfortunately no Jennier Lawrence.
This movie is a meditative character study, an acquired taste. This is a movie about clumsy, goofy white people with no rhythm. But it is also a classic, and one of the best I've seen in a few years.   

Top Scenes
A scene between Dern and Forte as they look upon Mt. Rushmore and Dern insists that Rushmore looks unfinished was featured at the Academy Awards. 

I have already mentioned several favorite scenes, but another one that strikes me is when Odenkirk's Rob arrives to the family reunion.

Dave, who has already been teased mercilessly for taking two days to drive from Billings, asks his brother Rob how long the drive took him. When he asks this, the entire room turns their heads to Dave to see what he says.

Three Mike and Ikes.


1 comment:

  1. Old white people, sounds like the Patriot's fan base . . .

    ReplyDelete

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