Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
I used to do a lot of business with Publishers Clearing House (PCH) when I was in the magazine business. They really did give away millions of dollars in sweepstakes prizes. But sometimes their promotions could be a tad misleading, making people think they’d won when they hadn’t.
That’s the situation in “Nebraska,” where an old timer (Bruce Dern) and his reluctant son (Will Forte) travel from Montana to Nebraska hoping to collect the million dollars he thinks he’s won in a junk-mail sweepstakes.
What we learn is that greed changes people. The neighbors want to see the money. A town bully (Stacy Keach) wants a share. The old man’s beleaguered wife (June Squibb) thinks he’s finally lost his marbles.
“Nebraska” showed one-night-only last month as an entry in the NY Film Critic’s series. Now it returns to the Tropic Cinema this week as a regular release.
Directed by Alexander Payne (“Sideways,” “The Descendants”), this is the first of his films that he didn’t write, rather using a screenplay by Bob Nelson, a one-time member of a comedy troupe on Seattle TV.
The film was deliberately shot in black-and-white to produce an “iconic, archetypal look.”
Bruce Dern was cast because “he’s of the right age now and he can be both ingenuous and ornery.” Dern won the best actor award at this year's Cannes Film Festival for this performance.
Will Forte got the role of the son because “he has a very, very believable quality.” A guy has to be convincing when he’s trying to talk his dad out of walking from Billings, Montana, to Lincoln, Nebraska.
“I think many of us have experiences with fathers who are loving, they are nice, but somehow they’re on another planet and you wonder your whole life, ‘What is that planet that my father is on?’” says Payne.
And therein is the film’s underlying theme: That fathers are ultimately unknowable to their children.