Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach

Directed by: Alexander Payne

Synopsis: An ageing booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million dollar mega sweepstakes marketing prize.

Alexander Payne is building up quite the portfolio of work; About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants and now Nebraska. Like About Schmidt, the film deals with an ageing lead character, and like Sideways he is on a road trip of sorts.

Bruce Dern is fantastically morose as Woody Grant. He receives some junk mail and thinks he’s won a million dollars. He wants a new truck so he plans on getting his hands on the money. After several foiled attempts to walk to Nebraska, his son David finally relents and offers to drive him there if it will shut him up. Along the way they stop in Woody’s old home town and meet some characters from his past, who upon hearing he is set to be rich, are variously happy for him or quick to tap him up for some cash. It doesn’t stop at old friends either, as his extended family think they are due some as well.

The film is a great portrayal of small town folk, and the choice of monochrome instead of colour really adds a kind of nostalgic quality to things. Each member plays their role perfectly, not least June Squibb who is equal parts funny and cantankerous as Woody’s long suffering wife.

Nebraska won’t be for everyone, not least because of the black and white. It is a film where seemingly little happens. In fact, many a scene features old people sat around talking very little, much like a lot of people’s own living rooms when their grandparents come to visit! It’s a ‘real’ film, full of real people who look like real people.

It’s a touching movie as you realise things about Woody as the story progresses, but it never gets overly sentimental. Usually I’m quite easy to manipulate into tearing up at emotional stuff in films, but not this time, and that is a positive not a negative.

This is a film that deserves all of the credit and attention it’s director and actors have received, and a lovely little slice of small town life.

4 clappers

About thomasjford

I like Movies and Music and most things popular culture.


  1. giorge thomas

    This is definitely on my list.

    • Yeah it’s a really good movie!

      • giorge thomas

        Have you ever seen Big Love? Bruce Dern’s character in that is simply horrible, a real proper bastard. Yet he treads the line of evil and humour so skilfully that you cannot help but like the character.

      • I don’t think I’ve seen that. Is it worth a watch?

      • giorge thomas

        It’s a TV serious, now finished. It’s about polygamy and, oh shit, the guys’s name has escaped me… Bill someone. Was in Titanic. Anyhow, he’s left the commune and lives with his three wives in the city, but it’s a real interesting look at a modern family trying to live a traditional polygamist lifestyle.

  2. Nice review, nice music by Springsteen. I don’t think Dern will win for Best Actor but it doesn’t matter much (to me) because he gave the performance of his life. Great film! 🙂

  3. Good stuff! I’m with you it does feel real and it’s not too sentimental, very true. I’m glad you enjoyed it as well, I thought you would 🙂

  4. Excellent movie, which is unsurprising as it was directed by Alexander Payne (he’s been amazingly consistent throughout his career). Dern & Squibb deserve all the accolades they’ve been getting, but more people should be aware of how good Will Forte is. I’ve been a fan since his first appearance on SNL and he always makes me laugh, but he did a fantastic job here in the most dramatic role of his career (yet he never seemed like a comedian trying to be serious, which is often the case). In fact, the movie is as much about his character as it is about the father.

    • Yeah he was good, and you are right about his not papering to be a comedian. Being a Brit I obviously don’t see SNL so I wouldn’t have even known he was a comedian until you said!

  5. Good review Thomas. It isn’t Payne’s best, but it’s still a pleasant movie to watch, regardless of if you ever get to liking these characters or not. You most likely will, but I have had people come up to me and said they just did not.

  6. I think I’ve already mentioned that Payne is my favourite director and I really really liked this one! And Dern is heartbreakingly good. And like you said, it is a real movie about real people. And the soundtrack is very good too. Well, I liked everything about this and just noticed today that it finally has opening date here in Finland too (I saw it at Helsinki Film Festival) and quite rightly so. And it did tear me up but I also laughed so much.

    • Payne has done some great films! What’s you’re favourite?

      • Probably The Descendants. I really felt it. But then again, I think I’ve gave all of them (the last four ones at least) the same grade. His characters are always so real and the moments make you laugh and cry at the same time. It’s beautiful.

  7. Great review, Tom. “A must watch” – O-tone my husband. I agree. 🙂

  8. So you and Davide both liked this! Might have to watch it after all, even if I both really liked Sideways and The Descendants while also not really liking them at the same time.


  10. This one has to go down as one of the best movies I’ve seen in recent years. The cinematography beautifully draws attention to life’s regrets and the monotony of everyday life. I thought The Descendants was (good but) over-rated – Nebraska seems much more deserving of that kind of appreciation. Great review.

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