Nebraka movie intrigues student

Following a slurry of capitalizing sequels and box office throwaways, 2013’s latter end movie roster was refreshingly good. One of its notable examples was a black-and-white comedy/drama directed by Alexander Payne [director of movies such as Sideways and The Descendants]. Nebraska: the film’s title, its protagonist’s ultimate destination and an opportunistic mental mirage marked by the graduated pangs and bittersweet cinematic sincerity of a senile man and an aging American family.

To further elaborate: Woody Grant [Bruce Dern] is an elderly man in present-day Billings, Montana who has received a letter in the mail informing him that he has won $1 million [and also inquiring about magazine subscriptions]. All Woody must do to claim his fortune is go to Nebraska and receive it from a marketing agency. Henceforth, Woody decides to make the southeastward trek to Nebraska — on foot. He is stopped by a police officer and held in the station until brought home by his son David [Will Forte]. Woody, still determined by the prospected acquisition of his earnings, refuses to believe his son’s assertion that the sweepstake is a scam.

Out of respect for what could be Woody’s “late-life crisis,” David assumes the role of his father’s chauffeur [as Woody’s license had been revoked] and reluctantly drives him to Nebraska, even as his mother [June Squibb] forbids it.

Along the way, familial memories and acquaintances are revisited, while Woody struggles with alcoholism, hospitalization and the anxiety of seeing his relatives again, and David struggles with doing right by his father in light of this.

Nebraska isn’t going to make you giddy with excitement over explosives and CGI, nor will it dazzle you with the array of an all-star cast. Nebraska plays on a different field, in which rural cinematography and subtle sentimentality are key. The protagonist isn’t even the most relatable character, but you feel inclined to root for him regardless, as he intends to make what could be his last true venture in hopes of accumulating enough money to buy a new truck and bequeath what remains to his sons after passing. This film is slow, low-key and at times monotonous, but beguiling in the mysterious ways that only a chaotic road trip down memory lane can be.