What’s today? The day that we need to take a close look at our elders. Unless they’re our relatives, then it’s likely to assume that your not thinking about that little old woman who’s feeding some birds or a skinny war veteran whose looking to play with his grandson at least one more time. Though it often feels like that were going to live forever, time is something we cannot stop. We are eventually going to get old. We will become senior citizens that will probably not the priority of the youth. I’m not saying this to upset anyone, I’m just trying to make it clear that life will come and go faster then you think.
One advantage about getting older is that you become less frightened by everything. They tolerate most things, but they are scared by very little. The one thing they are most afraid of is that they will reach a point where they will cease to remember. The memories of growing up as children will begin to fade as they start that ride into the final sunset of their lives. If anything, they at least want to be remembered for what they left behind. A man goes on a quest with his adult son to find that legacy in Nebraska.
In Billings, Montana, the police spot a man walking on the freeway. It’s a senile father named Woody Grant (played by Bruce Dern). They take him to a police station until he can be picked up. That guy would be his adult son David (played by Will Forte). Woody was setting out to walk all the way to Lincoln, Nebraska to supposedly collect a million dollars that he won in a sweepstakes. This is apparently not the first issue as Woody’s wife Kate is starting to complain to David that her husband is becoming a handful.
Kate and her eldest son Ross (played by Bob Osenkirk) want to put the guy in a retirement home, but David refuses. Woody is caught again trying to make his walk. Knowing that his dad will never let the sweepstakes thing go, David humors his dad by agreeing to drive him to Lincoln. Along the way, they make a detour to Woody’s hometown of Hawthorne. This is where most of his brothers and kin live, so Kate and Ross take a bus to meet up with David and make the trip a family outing. Things start to get out of hand when the rest of the townsfolk assume that the cash winnings of Woody are real and start demanding supposed payback.
Just as I said with Spike Jonze with Her, I knew that Alexander Payne would be bringing another great story about the importance of other people in our lives. Nebraska succeeds not only in the written and acting field, but in the artistic field as well. Speaking of fields, the black and white photography really turns all those Midwestern farms and crops into something poetic. It’s part of America, but it’s been dying recently, especially from the Great Recession. You really want to see these towns preserved, but as Woody Grant is, his hometown will eventually fade away. Nebraska looks like one of those Ansel Adams paintings you’d see in a fine art book or a fine arts museum.
The actors really help add on to the folk-like tone Nebraska is. Bruce Dern and Will Forte come off as people that could come from this flat spot of the States. I’m glad they went with actors that weren’t really that well known. Will Forte takes a nice dramatic turn as a man who’s in denial about his father growing old, but tries to do what’s right. He really came off as someone I know I’ll probably become when I reach that age when I need to start worrying for my parents. Bruce Dern has done small roles for a long time, but Nebraska will be the one he’ll be remembered for. He has the right balance for a guy who knows he’s losing his straight thoughts, but wants to do one last great thing for his family (even if their not as nice in return). Crazy? No. Sane? Kind of, but certainly no where close to when he was in his thirties. He knows he’s ruined his life by becoming an alcoholic, but he understands that’s what everyone see’s him as. They needed someone like Bruce Dern to make Woody Three dimensional.
I’ll give this five sweepstakes ads out of five. Nebraska is like a neo western, but with more focus on the characters. The environment becomes a character itself to show a dying area with a dying man. This is one of the best of 2013.