Alexander Payne’s (The Descendants. Sideways, About Schmidt) soulful, melancholy drama Nebraska won star Bruce Dern the Best Actor Award at Cannes this past May. Nebraska was nominated for the Palme d’Or but lost to the French erotic show-stopper, Blue is the Warmest Color.
Bob Nelson penned the script, which is his first to be produced. Nelson is from the Midwest, and Alexander Payne is from Nebraska, so the connection is apparent. Nebraska is the role of a lifetime for 76 year-old Bruce Dern (The Great Gatsby, 1974 version, and Django Unchained). After years of being a supporting character actor, he is finally the star.
Dern plays Woody, an aging, alcoholic Korean War Vet estranged from his family and friends. The cause is partly from the booze, partly from his age, and partly because he’s going crazy. When he receives an advertisement from a marketing company (similar to Publisher’s Clearing House) he mistakenly believes he has won a mega-million sweepstakes prize and insists on making the trip from Billings, Montana to Lincoln Nebraska to collect his winnings. He makes several attempts to walk , but the police return him every time.
Will Forte, taking a dramatic turn from his comedic roles on SNL and 30 Rock, plays one of his sons. He takes pity on Woody and agrees to make the trip with him. The road trip leads them through old memories, as they stop to visit long lost relatives, including Stacy Keach (The Bourne Legacy), all eager for a share of the winnings.
June Squibb, who starred in Alexander Payne’s About Schmidt, plays Woody’s wife, and is expected to receive a best supporting actress nomination come January.
Nebraska is shot in black and white, giving it an iconic, archetypal look of times long past. Mark Orton has created a gentle guitar-driven score that accentuates the windswept landscape of the current recession-era Midwest.
Paramount will release Nebraska on November 22.