How far would you travel for a million dollars? Nebraska, directed by Alexander Payne, follows Woody Grant, played by Bruce Dern, as he attempts to collect the winnings of a sweepstakes flyer claiming he’s won one million dollars, traveling from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska. His son David, played by Will Forte, takes it upon himself to take his father, knowing the money doesn’t exist but unwilling to let his elderly father travel alone. David’s rocky relationship with his girlfriend provides an extra reason to leave for a while.
The trip finds Woody and David at transitions in life, as one moves into old age and the other into mid-life. Both are unsatisfied with their menial lives in Billings, but don’t quite seem able to admit it to themselves. The trip to Lincoln gives them a change of scenery and a chance to spend some time together, even if the payoff won’t happen.
The father/son road trip is humorously dull, as Woody can think only of the money awaiting them in Lincoln. Woody and David get waylaid in fictional Hawthorne, Nebraska, filmed in Plainview, Woody and his wife’s old hometown. Woody is a typical curmudgeon, a simple, small-town man who doesn’t talk much. His past is slowly revealed over time, although differing between those who tell it. His wife Kate, played by June Squibb, claims he was too generous in the past, never able to turn down a favor, while joyfully roasting every member of his family and the town they lived in. Those who remember him in Hawthorne claim he was a drunk who was always in need. When news spreads of Woody’s winnings, all his old friends and family come out of the woodwork, ready to take their share of the money, claiming at one time or another to have given him loans in the past.
Payne’s film portrays the hilarious dysfunctions of small town life, from family rivalries to old flames and the quiet chaos that envelops a community. As Woody realizes that the winnings are a fantasy, he is able to accept life as it is and appreciate the simple things, even if it means settling for a used truck rather than a million dollars.
Nebraska was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Dern, Best Supporting Actress for Squibb, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.
Nebraska is available at Bellevue University Library, located in the general collection. All books can be borrowed for 21 days with the option of renewal.
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