Nebraska written by Bob Nelson, directed by Alexander Payne (Paramount Vantage, FilmNation Entertainment, Blue Lake Media Fund, R, 115 min)

Starring Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, and Bob Odenkirk.

Thoughts of My Son

My boy isn’t even 5 months old yet, but I imagine the day when he’ll need to take care of me… Or put me in a home if I’m being honest. It’s odd to consider this little man who can’t even use a toilet will someday be someone I’ll need to rely upon. But thus is the nature of the familial relationship and the nature of aging. We all needed our diapers changed. We all procured a driver’s license. We all will retire. We all will face a point where we’re no longer self-sufficient. Alexander Payne’s Nebraska approaches these ideas with a touch of humor.


Nebraska details a road trip between an alcoholic father, Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) and his estranged son, David (Will Forte). The movie opens with Woody meandering down a main thoroughfare in Missoula, Montana. A cop jumps out to check on Woody and we learn that Woody is going to Lincoln, Nebraska to acquire his winnings in a multi-million dollar sweepstakes.

Returning home, Woody’s wife, Kate (June Squibb) becomes worried enough about her husband’s erratic behavior to include her sons David and Ross (Bob Odenkirk) in an intervention.

The problem being: the sweepstakes is a scam—one we’ve all seen where the company wants you to purchase their product with the hope you might win something.

When David sees his dad wandering the streets once more, he decides to take a couples of days off work to drive his father to Lincoln, thinking that a cold dose of reality might wake his father from his stupor.

As one would expect from such a narrative, things do not go according to plan. Some clumsiness mixed with alcohol leads Woody to visit the E.R. and the journey sidesteps to the family’s old hometown in rural Nebraska.

Family Context

When David observes his father in the context of his old friends, colleagues, and family members, he learns much about the man behind the stoic exterior.

On the humorous side, Woody’s inability to keep his mouth shut enraptures the whole town with the joy of one of their own hitting it big. It also brings out the worst in people as they look to take advantage of this newfound “wealth.”

Coming of Age in Reverse

Ultimately, Nebraska tells a coming-of-age story in reverse as David shifts from being the relier to the relied upon. And this motif is the one that makes the film resonate. Everyone lucky enough to grow up, start a family, and get old will encounter the progression of child, to parent, to elderly parent in need. The shifts are shocking. I already think it’s crazy to imagine my little son needing to take care of me someday. But chances are, the day will come.

Nebraska blends humor, drama, and a black-and-white filter to set the stage for the viewer to question aging and the relationships between parent and child. A good movie.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 5

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