New from The Movie Snob.
Nebraska (B+). It’s time to cram in some end-of-the-year Oscar contenders, and I started with the latest film by director Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways, About Schmidt). It’s the story of a middle-aged man named David Grant (Will Forte, MacGruber) who tries to connect with, or at least do right by, his aging, alcoholic father Woody (Bruce Dern, The ‘Burbs). Woody has gotten convinced that he has won a million dollars in a sweepstakes, and since he can’t drive anymore he keeps trying to walk from his home in Billings, Montana, to Lincoln, Nebraska, in order to collect his prize. David, who’s at sort of a dead-end in life himself, decides to drive Woody to Lincoln to dispel his father’s delusion once and for all. The heart of the movie, though, is the extended detour they make to Hawthorne, Nebraska, the little town where Woody grew up and where his surviving siblings live. There are some very touching scenes, as well as some very funny ones–the latter usually involving Woody’s scold of a wife Kate (June Squibb, About Schmidt), who has almost nothing good to say about anyone. Most critics seem to like the film, although I think some find Payne’s treatment of these taciturn Midwesterners a bit condescending. Maybe it is, a little, but it wasn’t off-putting enough to make me dislike the movie. I thought Forte, Dern, and Squibb were all great; it may have helped that I have never seen Forte on Saturday Night Live, which he is apparently best known for, so I had no trouble accepting him as the straight man at the center of the piece. Check it out.