Bruce Dern is a doddering old man who thinks he won a million dollars because he received a Publishers Clearinghouse type letter. Nebraska tells the story of his quest to get his million dollars. The story is pretty simple. He and his son go on a road trip.
Our hero is a little dim witted, but people want to believe that he has won because they want him to give them some of the money. All he really wants is a new pickup truck and a compressor.
Like a Hitchcock film, that’s just the McGuffin. Nebraska isn’t really about winning a million dollars. It’s about an old man who could be any old man. A man who had dreams and loves and desires. But somehow he ended up with children he doesn’t much care about, a wife who is a shrew, and an extended family he hasn’t seen in twenty years. He also isn’t exactly rich. He is the personification of quiet desperation, only he is past that as well, he is a walking sigh of resignation.
Nebraska was shot in black and white and is a beautiful film to watch. Like our hero’s life, the scenes of vast open spaces in Wyoming and South Dakota have lost all their color. The music is moving and perfect for the subject. Kind of sad and kind of pretty.
There is a lot of quiet here. As we are told from time to time, these are men of few words. There were a few very funny scenes and a few poignant ones. The drunk father and the bitchy mother reminded me a lot of my own parents. My own mother liked to wander around cemeteries and point out the graves of people I had never heard of, just as this mother does. Maybe it’s something all mothers do.
The ending is kind of fun and kind of pointless. The most heartbreaking moments are those where we are forced to stop and think about What Might Have Been.
I liked Nebraska, but I’m not sure an old man walking around pretending to be an old man is really the stuff of a Best Actor Performance.