The bland, flat small town culture of middle America (if you buy into that as a reality) is the setting for Nebraska starring Bruce Dern. Dern plays an old codger who believes he’s won a magazine sweepstakes. He’s intent upon collecting his $1,000,000 in person as he doesn’t trust the mail with that much money. So he starts walking from Montana to Nebraska, the headquarters of this promotion company. His wife and oldest son think he’s lost it and that they should put him in a home. They’re tired of the police picking the old man up on the road to Lincoln.
David, his more sympathetic son, who works at a big box electronics store and whose life is going no where, agrees to drive to Nebraska with his father. What follows is a drive through flat, bleak countryside with humor, sometimes wry, sometimes hokey. As is true of any road movie, the men encounter mishaps. In Nebraska the father wanders off and gets hurt. They then decide to spend a few days with family in small town Nebraska. The wife and oldest son, who were dead set against this trip, show up for a visit too.
When I worked in Hollywood, I met so many people who viewed their hometowns with disdain. It seems like that feeling fills Nebraska. Now I’m sure there are hokey, drab losers in Montana and Nebraska, not everyone fits this stereotype. I know people in both states, one from a tiny town in Montana and they can be educated, witty, and adventurous. So this reductionist version doesn’t do much for me.
It’s dull to watch even “beautiful losers” for two hours or more. What is the point? Now this movie didn’t bore me, but it did drag and it’s not a must see. I’m glad I just paid $5, any more would irk me.
Nebraska has some good jokes and touching moments but it minimizes the strengths of the people and places it shows. The black and white cinematography reminded me a bit of Ozu or the photos by Dorthea Lange, but not as good.
Bruce Dern does a capable job as the cantankerous father, whose past keeps popping up, but most of the other characters are so one dimensional. It was rather weird how many of the townsfolk talked in long paragraphs to people they didn’t know at all. I can’t see this as earning many awards, though it’s been nominated. Go figure.