There’s always time for a simple story, well told. Alexander Payne grew up in Nebraska, and this is less a love letter than an old photo album. Bruce Dern is Woody Grant, who has dementia and believes he’s won a million dollars in a Publishers Clearing House-style scam. He can no longer drive so he’s decided to walk from his home in Billings, Montana to Lincoln, NE—1,300 kilometres. His son David (Will Forte, in an uncharacteristically toned-down appearance), a stereo salesperson going through a breakup, decides to take him, even though he knows the outcome. They stop in Woody’s hometown of Hawthorne, the kind of working-class place where the unemployment rate is sky-high, everyone remembers your business and there’s nobody under 40 left. As Woody drinks and shuffles his way around Hawthorne, more is revealed about his quiet yet cantankerous nature, and a great character study emerges. Shot in black and white, Payne nails the authenticity of small, broken towns, with their framed photos and desolate Main Streets, populated by ex-dreamers and lifelong drunks. Nebraska
lacks the sourness that permeates the likes of Sideways
and The Descendants
, trading it in for straight deadpan, to better and more lasting effect. This is a terrific movie.