Under the Radar

Getting Regular Folks Right in 'Nebraska'


Even though Nebraska got nominated for a slew of Oscars (including Best Picture), the movie didn't really find an audience in theaters, especially when you compare its box office to the last three pictures directed by Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, Sideways and The Descendants).

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it's filmed in black and white and perhaps the audience that would love Nebraska thinks "no color" equals "art movie." Fortunately, it's out now on home video and you get another shot at this one.


Bruce Dern (nominated for Best Actor) stars as Woody Grant, a cranky (and boozy) old guy who gets a Publishers Clearinghouse-style sweepstakes letter and becomes convinced that he's won a million dollars. Not trusting the postal service with so much money, he decides he has to travel from Montana to Nebraska to pick up his winnings in person.

After a couple of failed attempts by the old man to hitchhike, Woody's son David (played by Will Forte) decides to drive him to Lincoln just to prove to him there's no money waiting there.


The trip is a chance for two guys who don't communicate well to work out some issues. They also visit Woody's hometown along the way and see all of Woody's brothers and their families.

Woody's wife Kate (played by June Squibb, also nominated for Best Supporting Actress) and son Ross (Bob Odenkirk) end up joining them while they're visiting the relatives. All the relatives think Woody really is a millionaire now and his alleged wealth brings a lot of family resentments to the fore.

Most of the supporting roles are played by local Midwestern actors (and quite a few parts are played by first-timers) and the whole thing feels like a movie made by someone who loves small-town America, a vibe that's in stark contrast with most of the rustic caricatures you see on the TV reality shows made by L.A. folks who are just passing through.


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