A slow-moving movie about a father and son reunion, director Alexander Payne's (About Schmidt, The Descendants) new movie Nebraska benefits from a spectacular performance by veteran actor Bruce Dern. While the film, which opens today at the Cedar Lee Theatre, probably won't generate enough buzz to merit a Oscar nod for Dern, he's certainly deserving of the accolades. Filmed in black-and-white and set in the starker parts of Montana and Nebraska, the film subtly deals with family turmoil.
As the film opens, we see Woody (Dern) stumbling down the freeway. After a police officer concerned about Woody's safety picks up the obstinate old man, his son David (Will Forte) has to retrieve his dad from the police station. Turns out, Woody was attempting to walk from his Billings home to Lincoln to claim what can only be a bogus million dollar prize. Since he isn't allowed to drive and his wife Kate (June Squibb) wasn’t going to take him, he decided to walk. Both Dave and his brother Ross (Bob Odenkirk) try to talk Woody out of going to Lincoln, but he won’t have it. Dave relents and offers to drive his dad. Along the way, they stop in the small town where Woody grew up. Once everyone there, including old pal Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach) gets wind that Woody might have come into some money, they want a piece of the action, creating an awkward situation for both father and son.
Dern’s performance here is incredible. He plays the spaced-out Woody perfectly and even elicits a good deal of sympathy, no easy task considering the guy basically communicates with a series of grunts and one- and two-word answers. And Forte is terrific as the son who desperately wants to connect with his dad, even though the guy is a bit of a bastard. Road movies are a dime dozen, but Nebraska has a certain charm (and a strong cast) that make it stand out from the pack.