Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) won a million dollars. At least, that’s how he reads the letter he received. The problem is, he lives in Montana. To claim his prize, he has to travel to Nebraska. His family, including his abrasive wife, Kate (June Squibb), knows the letter is a scam. So none of them will take him to the office to get his winnings.
Determined to get his riches so he can buy a new truck, Woody doesn’t let this stop him. He continuously tries to walk to Nebraska. Someone always stops him. The police. His wife. His sons, Ross (Bob Odenkirk) and David (Will Forte). So he never gets there. But that doesn’t lessen Woody’s resolve.
David, more sympathetic than the rest of the family, and realizing nothing will stop Woody, decides to take his father on a road trip to Nebraska to get his million dollars. Along the way, they stop in Woody’s hometown. When everyone finds out Woody is coming into a fortune, the demands for repayment of debts come from everywhere.
David tries to convince the town that his dad isn’t going to be rich, but no one believes him. They think he is trying to cover up the incoming money so Woody can keep it all and not pay them back.
Nebraska is up for several Oscars, but I can’t exactly figure out why. It was shot in black and white, to make it feel more artsy, I guess. Surprisingly, this works. For this film. The sprawling landscapes translate well. And it removes the monotony that is shown throughout the film. But that is about the only thing that I find award worthy about the film.
Bruce Dern plays a convincing senile old man. Part of me felt he actually believed what was happening in the movie was his real life. Either that, or he really does deserve an Oscar for his acting. June Squibb is abrasive, almost abusive to her husband. It feels she was thrown in for what I call “The Betty White Effect.” She’s an old lady, so if she says something completely out of character for someone of her advanced age, or swears, people see it as funny. I’m not a fan of the Betty White Effect. It comes off as cheap and gimmicky. Will Forte, however, can pull off a semi-serious role with some sincerity. I find it hard to see him outside of his Saturday Night Live characters.
With the class of films, namely Philomena, Dallas Buyers Club, and 12 Years a Slave, I find it hard to believe that Nebraska is up for Best Picture. I found it slow and plodding. So slow, in fact, that I struggled to not only pay attention, but to stay awake. I put this in the same class as Her. Up for several awards, most people say they love it. I just don’t get it.
After having been warned about Nebraska, I saw it simply to check it off of my list of Oscar contenders. That is the only reason I would recommend that anyone see this movie. That, or if you need some background noise while you do other things. Or a nap.