11/20/2013 09:44 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Popcorn Preview: Nebraska

Film: Nebraska (2013)
Cast includes: Bruce Dern (Monster, Django Unchained), Will Forte (MacGruber), June Squibb (About Schmidt), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad), Stacy Keach (American History X)
Director: Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways)
Genre: Drama | Humor (115 minutes)

The road is flat and straight... Tire Factory store on one side, railroad tracks on the other... and there's an old man walking towards us. When he reaches the Billings city limits... that's when the sheriff cuts him off. "Hey, Partner. Hold on there just a second... where you headed to?" Woody Grant points ahead. "Where you coming from?" Woody points behind. Well, the upshot is that Woody's son David has to come get him from the police station. "You told the sheriff you were walking to Lincoln, Nebraska?" "I'm going to get my million dollars," says Woody. He shows David the letter he got from the publishing company, saying he's already won a million dollars. "It says you can just mail it in," David points out. "I'm not trusting the mail with a million dollars," says Woody.

"You dumb cluck," exclaims Woody's wife Kate. What would Woody even do with a million dollars? "You know what I'd do with a million dollars?" says Kate. "I'd put him in a home!" The next time Woody heads out, they catch up with him "way the hell out on King Avenue." Ross agrees with Mom... Woody should be in a home. "I'm going to Lincoln if it's the last thing I do," Woody tells David. One thing leads to another, and David finally decides to call in sick and drive Woody to Lincoln. "You're just like your father... stubborn as a mule," yells Kate. It's supposed to be a quick trip, but Woody takes a tumble and ends up spending a day in the hospital. Now they need to kill some time until Monday. Aunt Martha and Uncle Ray live in Hawthorne, so it might be good a time for a reunion. Actually Woody grew up in Hawthorne, and he used to know everyone. But it's not until they go into Blinker Tavern that Woody finds familiar faces. "Don't say anything about the money," David pleads. But Woody say's, "I got a right to do whatever the hell I want."

"Did you see the look on those fella's faces?" Woody beams with pride at his new celebrity status. David had thought these few days would be a chance to spend some quality time with Dad, but things take an unexpected turn in Hawthorne. Turns out there're old scores to settle, and a million dollars can really get people's attention. Nebraska is a quirky and heartwarming story that will resonate with anyone who's ever had to look out for an older loved one. Don't be misled by the low-key, unadorned black and white feel of this film. Director Alexander Payne knows how to keep a mainstream audience engaged. Nebraska is beautifully textured with elements that work on many levels. The casting is impeccable, especially Bruce Dern, who will certainly be a Best Actor contender. The color the movie lacks in the black and white filming it makes up for in the colorful characters. Woody is obviously "a little confused," but there are also moments of clarity, and he'll often surprise you. He calls um like he sees um... "Usually a person has to die before the vultures come circling."

4 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
When Woody gets a letter saying he's won a million dollars, he gonna get to Lincoln to collect it, if it's the last thing he does. His son finally agrees to drive him there.

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R (Language)
Audience: Grown-ups
Distribution: Mainstream limited release
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Primary Driver: Character
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking

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You may want to read about other Alexander Payne movies:


The Descendants