Ric Roman Waugh, 2013
In Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, a lonely salesman’s elderly father becomes convinced that a Publisher’s Clearinghouse sweepstakes brochure telling him that he “has already won” $1,000,000 means that he needs only to make it to Lincoln, Nebraska from his home in Montana to pick up his prize money. No amount of explanation about what the letter actually means will sway the old man, who is stubborn, frequently drunk, and only variably engaged with the world around him. So the son (Will Forte) packs his dad (Bruce Dern) into a car, and the two of them set off for Lincoln from their home in Montana. On their way, they stop off to visit dad’s hometown, where his family and old friends become convinced that he will shortly be a millionaire.
A summary like that brings certain expectations: the son learns things about his dad that he never knew, and comes away with a newfound respect for the man who raised him. But the only predictable thing about Nebraska is the mildly smug way it goes about getting big laughs at the expense of struggling midwesterners. The lesson Forte’s character learns isn’t what a great man his father is, but how he’s been treated all his life by just about everyone, and how what he needs right now is for someone to humor and take care of him. It’s a sad, surprising takeaway from one of Payne’s better films.
-- Eugene Novikov