Valissa Smith is managing partner of www.itsallaboutHER.com, an online resource for women. She is a proud member of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle. You can watch Valissa's movie reviews Fridays at 11:00 a.m.on the KSHB-TV Midday Newscast.
We’ve all received one of those sweepstake letters in the mail. Perhaps the first time it came, you held onto slight hope that it could possibly be real, that you just might have won a million dollars. Then you stop to read the details to be sure. The fine print states you have to match a winning number and the finer print tells you there’s a one in 10-million chances that the number will match.
Woody Grant, Nebraska native and current Montana home owner got that letter too. Only he didn’t read the fine print. His current prescription likely isn’t strong enough. As an 80+ year old man he simply believes what the letter says in large, bold print on the front. He needs to get to Lincoln to claim his prize. Woody’s wife calls him crazy and his sons are ready to put him in a nursing home. He does have dementia. But Woody is dreaming of that million dollars to buy a new air compressor and a new pickup truck, even though he’s no longer allowed to drive.
Relentless, Woody makes his way to that Sweepstakes office with the reluctant help of his son David. It becomes a familial journey that neither could ever predict. With 900 miles in front of them, David ponders his childhood, his parents relationship, and this father of few words, all while pondering his own. His live-in girlfriend has moved out and his job at the electronic store isn’t much of a career.
One of my favorite exchanges in the film is when David asks his dad, “Why’d you even have us, Dad?” He answers, “I liked to screw and your mother was Catholic. You figure it out.” In the truth of each moment, David begins to understand and even appreciate his alcoholic father.
Nebraska comes to us by way of Alexander Payne (he brought us The Descendants starring George Clooney.) The film is in black-and-white, symbolic I suspect of the colorless life these characters live.
Bruce Dern plays Woody and with very few words manages to offer us an absolute brilliant role. Dern, you’ll recall, was nominated for an Best Supporting Oscar in 1978 for Coming Home, and has had a long a prosperous film career. June Squibb plays his wife Kate and is by far my favorite character in this film. The loud-mouthed old woman doesn’t pull punches with Woody, their two sons, or anyone else in the family for that matter. In my opinion, both Dern and this 84-year old actress deserves to be nominated for Academy Awards. Their acting authenticity, has me feeling as if I’m watching a documentary.
You’ll likely recognize Will Forte who plays David but you might struggle to remember from where. He was a key player on Saturday Night Live for several years. The comedic writer and actor has worked on several television shows and films and even had a recurring role on 30 Rock.
While Nebraska is listed on the IMDB website as an adventure/drama, there are many humorous moments in this film - I’m talking laugh out loud. Maybe these fictional moments feel very real to me because I’m just a small town girl, who can remember sitting among the elderly listening to meaningless conversation between awkward moments of silence. Plus, I spent seven years of my childhood in Nebraska, the best years of my life. I have a huge crush on this film, but not sure everyone will be as attracted to it as I am.
Arruga! = 0
Fidget Factor = 0
Age Range = 15 and up
Overall grade = A