Nebraska received nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor: Bruce Dern, Best Supporting Actress: June Squibb, Best Director: Alexander Payne, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.
There is something remarkable about a film that is able to move you to tears along with a grin. Nebraska is such a film. While it is filled with crankiness that causes you to grin, it sparks love. The film is beautiful, even in its black and white imagery. Perhaps because of it. This film reminds us that the cinematography is just as much a part of the story as the actors and the script. The black and white images leave you with a lump in your throat, and your heart.
Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) receives a sweepstakes letter saying he won a million dollars. Most of us would throw it away, because we know that its primary goal is to sell magazines. Woody, a Korean War vet-alcoholic, is a bit senile. No amount of reasoning from his wife or two sons will convince Woody that it is a scam.
On more than one occasion, Woody decided to make the 900-mile journey from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim the winnings. On foot. After making attempts more than once, David (SNL‘s Will Forte) decides to drive him to Lincoln. For David, the road trip will be a chance to spend time with his father who is slipping away right before his eyes. The journey takes them to Woody’s hometown in Nebraska for a few days. Woody is reunited with some of his brothers, and David learns things about his dad he never knew.
Kate (June Squibb) and the older brother Ross (Bob Odenkirk) arrive to bring Woody back home. The road trip brings this family together. Kate appears to be a simple, house wife, but she is a strong, loud, and at times foul-mouthed. While Woody tends to believe and trust other people, Kate tends to see through the bullshit. Even when it comes from family.
When word spreads that Woody is a millionaire, there is a familiar refrain that David hears. “Woody owes me money.” It comes from their extended family, as well as Woody’s old business partner, played by Stacy Keach. The irony, of course, is that Woody is not a millionaire, and when the truth comes out, Woody is the joke of town.
The film is a story of complicated people who are flawed by failure, mistakes, and regrets. There are themes of guilt, selfishness, and greed. And yet, there is the very humbling theme of reconciliation. The road trip that David and Woody partake is a journey that brings them closer together, while helping them understand each other. We may not be able to change or fix our past, but we have the power and the ability to change our future.