Similar to his other movies The Descendants, Sideways, and About Schmidt, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska involves a trip that’s really a journey into the self, and all the ugly roadside attractions you find there. In Payne’s black-and-white ode to his home state, Bruce Dern’s ornery Woody Grant seems to most closely recall Jack Nicholson’s title character in Schmidt (a connection made even stronger by the casting of June Squibb as his wife), setting out in the twilight of his years to claim a million-dollar sweepstakes prize that promises to clean the slate on a lifetime of bad decisions. Unfortunately, that prize is most likely bogus—something only his put-upon son, a dramatically subdued Will Forte, seems to recognize. But as with so many of Payne’s movie quests, it’s less about the destination than the voyage, and here it’s all about Forte and Dern bonding in between threats from Stacy Keach, Bob Odenkirk getting smacked around (he’s had a rough time of that lately), and numerous stops for Dern to take a symbolic piss on the side of life’s road.
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