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Woody Grant has received an important letter in the post.
The letter states he is the winner of $1,000,000.00.
So Woody sets off on foot to Nebraska in order to claim his prize. However, there is just one flaw – the letter is a sweepstakes marketing leaflet. He has not won $1,000,000.00. But as well as being a slightly confused old man, Woody is determined. And not wanting to smash his father’s fantasy to pieces, Woody’s son David reluctantly offers to help out – sparking a cross-country journey to claim his “prize”.
But this trip won’t be your average joy-ride. Because as a relationship between father and son is examined in depth, Woody and David are about to learn the the lesson of a lifetime…
This movie was heartbreaking. And hilarious. And serious. And smooth.
Bruce Dern – Woody Grant
Will Forte – David Grant
June Squibb – Kate Grant
Bob Odenkirk – Ross Grant
Tim Driscoll – Bart
Devin Ratray – Cole
From the second the cameras started rolling, Nebraska was sweet and endearing. Its basically a story of the relationship between father and son, but its done in such a gentle way. And it is Woody and David who make it so endearing.
Woody is an old man, who is clearly losing his marbles. But at the same time, he is adorable to watch; his habit of wandering off by himself and distant facial expressions are just the beginning – because the things he comes out with during the movie are bloody hilarious.
Hats off to Will Forte, the actor who plays Woody. He is incredibly believable and delivers his character with such passion, that even the slight confused look on his face stirred a reaction from the audience. I couldn’t help but think of the various old people I’ve met in life whenever he was on screen – you know the classic ‘grandma gone bonkers’ or a relative of a friend you visit in hospital.. Will nails the characteristics of this kind of person very accurately. Its superb to watch.
If you’re not particularly won over by the dull black & white thing in movies, then you’re going to bloody love Nebraska! (yes, I’m being sarcastic)
The movie was filmed entirely in black and white at the instruction of director Alexander Payne – apparently, he wanted to create an ‘iconic, archetypal look’; it was all about the landscapes used for filming mixed with the black and white effect which he found poetic.
But arty farty stuff aside, it did actually work. The black and white took me away from the standard cliché movie feel for a bit, and was nice because it was different. I think the last movie I saw in black and white was The Artist, and although an element of cinema we all take for granted, having colour taken away made the feature stand out.
We are introduced to Woody and David’s relatives during the movie. And as well as them being bloody hilarious, I found myself sat there being able to relate to the situation..
When the pair stop in Wyoming to see Uncle Ray and Aunt Martha, there are brief greetings and “the last time I saw you, you were this big” ‘s, before the relatives sit down in front of the television. Although incredibly usual and normal, I found myself laughing at the picture – because I could relate to it.
Aunt Martha, Uncle Ray, Woody, David and the twin cousins sit – open-mouthed – staring dully at the TV. Saying nothing to each other, their faces are blank. Until Aunt Martha announces that Uncle Ray’s foot hurts..
“huh?” Woody mumbles at her..
“I said Ray’s foot has been hurting him”
“..ah” Woody replies.
Its such normal conversation, that its actually funny.
I think these days with movies, the producers try and win the audience over by adding so much dialogue, one-liner’s and other clever language, that we actually get lost in it all. What Nebraska does is remain true to real life, and its script sounds as if someone actually sat and copied the conversation between a normal family.
The old women sat around the kitchen table talking about the female neighbour they all know, and the scene where Woody’s brothers all come to visit – resulting in sitting around watching the television in sheer silence – made me LOL in delight. They say family is important – and Nebraska proved it. The characters we see in the movie are so relatable that portraying home really does hit home.
The movie continues as the news of Woody’s ‘win’ spreads amongst the town. And suddenly he becomes something of a local celebrity. Old friends, neighbours and colleagues all crawl out of the woodwork and start buttering the old fella up, in the hopes of getting their hands on a chunk of the imaginary $1,000,000.00.
The only problem is when David intervenes and drops the bombshell that there is no money, everyone believes the tale even more. Everyone thinks Woody is trying to play subtle and keep it under his hat, even though they all found out about it – therefore, they all still want money from him.
Its amazing what money can do to people, and by God do Woody’s old pals prove it. As jealousy surges through the town folk, the local newspaper wants to feature him, old friends root for him – and one or two neighbours get nasty…
Woody’s wife Kate is – in a nutshell – fucking hilarious.
From the moment she appears on screen announcing, “I didn’t even know the son of a bitch wanted to be a millionaire – he should’ve thought about that years ago and worked for it”, her outspoken humour just keeps flowing nicely.
Halfway through their trip, Kate disembarks a bus and joins David and Woody in Wyoming. The first stop for her is the local cemetery, where she pays her respects to deceased relatives / friends – one of whom being an old male acquaintance she nearly began a relationship with.. standing over his grave stone, she raises her skirt, revealing wobbly old legs in stockings, and says, “see what you could’ve had?!”
..needless to say I laughed out loud heartily.
The stark voice of reason, Kate goes around putting people in their place – especially those who want to get their hands on Woody’s ‘money’ – and is the massive dollop of comedic gold the movie needs to keep it going. June is just superb; in comedic delivery as well as playing the straight-talking old woman.
I have only just found out one of the twins in the movie is Buzz from Home Alone – I didn’t even realise.
Devin Ratray has appeared in loads of stuff since Home Alone; nothing I’ve seen in which he was rather memorable though, otherwise I would’ve said, “oh look – its Buzz”, you know.
As Woody’s nephew Cole, he appears as some sort of hilarious caricature. Sat on the sofa with his twin brother, the pair of them are like a duo you’d see in the likes of Family Guy – but the cartoon totally comes to life with their brilliantly comedic faces and lazy-arsed attitudes. The hilarious pair’s personalities are brought to a sudden shouldn’t-be-funny-but-is revelation by their mother; she announces to Kate that ‘the boys are out volunteering – picking up trash on the freeway’.. it is quickly discovered that they are actually out doing community service – for rape.
..and just like any episode of Family Guy containing characters like these twins, such a delicate matter was made fucking hysterical.
Nebraska contains some bloody beautiful scenery. It was filmed in its namesake state Nebraska (duh), as well as Buffalo, Billings, Montana, South Dakota and Rapid City.
What we get are a lot of gorgeous clear landscapes – stark plains scattered with hay bails, pretty little houses and shacks, endless stretches of road cutting through baron landscapes.. and when the Grant’s come to stay with their relatives, there are some nice shots of their cozy village, surrounded by snow-covered train tracks. Its all rather beautiful.
So if you have links to southern America or just love a bit of sightseeing, then you’re in for a treat.
One scene is just hilarious. Without giving too much away, I will mention that the scene centres around a compressor, once needed by Woody – now stolen by David. The whole scene plays out fantastically; mainly in the car.
Woody’s reaction to David’s feat contains superb comedic timing, and watching his naivety on the back seat as David drives off is joyous, I loved it. Yet the dialogue used and emotion expressed is completely normal. Again, this is what Nebraska does – it takes everyday life and displays it on screen without editing anything, making it enjoyable.
Overall, Nebraska is brilliant. The Muriel’s Wedding of southern USA.
Although it starts slow and may seem a bit boring at first, it soon picks up pace as the characters are introduced. And blended with a superb soundtrack, the atmosphere pulls you right in.
It is incredibly touching and endearing – at some points quite emotional. But above all, its best quality is the message it displays – the importance of family. The relationship between Woody and David is laid bare, and in the end delivers a raw truth – that we take family for granted, and sometimes need to show them how much we care about them. Spend the time with them that they deserve.
And tell them how much they mean to us.
One thing’s for certain – I’ve always wanted to visit, however after watching this, I am inspired to take a trip to the south of America. I don’t think I’ve seen a part of the ‘States as beautiful as that.
Saying that, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford to get there, so thank God for Google Earth!