Nebraska is a 2013 dramedy directed by Alexander Payne
staring Bruce Dern
and Will Forte, co-starring Stacy Keach, Bob Odenkirk
and June Squibb.
Woody Grant (Dern) is an elderly man with an early onset of dementia, who gets a sweepstakes letter in the mail telling him he's won a million dollars, which is an obvious front to sell people magazine subscriptions. Ignoring this and the advice of his wife Kate and sons David and Ross, the former of whom picked him up after the police found him on the side of the road, he's determined to get his prize from the office in Lincoln, Nebraska. After catching his dad running away again, David decides to drive him to the destination to prevent a further incident. The two end up stopping in Woody's home town of Hawthorne on the way there after Woody gets a head injury, and word soon spreads of Woody's supposed windfall while the two take a trip down memory lane.
Both Dern and Squibb were nominated for Golden Globes and Academy Awards
, for Best Actor/Supporting Actress respectively.
- The Alcoholic: Woody, something he staunchly refuses to admit, saying he deserves a drink after his service in the Korean War. David points out he was only a mechanic. It's later all but stated that said alcoholism is a result of getting shot down while being transferred, something David was entirely unaware of
- Butt Monkey: Woody and David can qualify.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The movie being in Black & White adds to the bleak, somber feel of it all.
- Determinator: Nothing will stop Woody from getting his million dollars, no matter how many people tell him it's a scam.
- Dirty Old Woman: Kate has shades of this, calling Woody's dead sister a whore and flashing the tombstone of an ex-boyfriend.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Woody, quite obviously, doesn't get the million, but he gets a Nice Hat. However, David makes it up to him by getting him the only two things he wanted: a new truck (albeit a used one that's like new and just has his name on the title, since Woody can't drive) and an air compressor. David also lets him drive it down the main street of Hawthorne, giving everyone there the impression he won the money after all.
- False Friend: Ed Pegram.
- Get Out: David calmly tells Ed to get out of their booth of the bar after he reveals Woody had an affair before David was born but after Ross was and that he stopped it in an attempt to get some of Woody's non-existent money.
- Ironic Echo: The "Lucky Winner" hat is a non-verbal example. When we first see Woody wearing it, it comes across as a cruel mockery of his defeat after not winning the sweepstakes. A few scenes later, it comes across as triumphant as he shows off his "winnings" to everyone back in Hawthorne.
- David's cousins Cole and Bart, two ex-cons (one of which raped a woman) who laugh incessantly at how long David took to get to Hawthorne, try to weasel their way into getting Woody's winnings, and later rob him of his sweepstakes paper and then insult David for claiming to have a million dollars after they themselves scoffed at the truth when Woody's family repeatedly told them.
- Ed Pegram, who tries to collect on Woody's money, threatening legal action and then later confronts Woody himself. He brags how he put a stop to Woody's affair as some sort of badge of honor and later reads Woody's letter aloud to a crowd of people for his own amusement.
- Woody's wife Kate, who is quite dismissive of him, refuses to sugarcoat the ticket for him, really doesn't sugarcoat anything. Unlike most of the characters listed here though...
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kate truly does care for Woody as shown in two scenes: when she tells off some members of his family trying to shake him down for money by proxy and when she kisses his forehead in the hospital after he ends up there again late in the film.
- Nice Hat: What Woody ends up getting from the sweepstakes as a consolation prize.
- Precision F-Strike: Kate delivers a rather cathartic one to the relatives hounding her and Dave for their cut of Woody's money.
- Road Movie: For the first third or so. After Woody's head injury most of the action takes place in Hawthorne.
- Shaggy Dog Story: Subverted somewhat. Woody doesn't get the million, but David buys him a new truck (albeit one with his name on it, since Woody can't drive) and an air compressor which Woody stated was what he would only buy with the money and convinces the people of Hawthorne that he won the million. and a Nice Hat.
- Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Kate, though it's implied she's been this blunt for as long as Woody has known her.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Cole and Bart.
- Tranquil Fury: Seen when David discovers Ed Peagram reading the stolen sweepstakes letter to other patrons in the bar, mocking Woody. David calmly approaches Ed, takes back the letter, turns to walk away, thinks twice, turns around, and clocks Ed in the face, all without saying a word.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Though the film is quite good at wrapping up a lot of seemingly unrelated subplots and character details in its final scenes, we never do find out what happens with David and his ex-girlfriend Noel.
- Yes, Except No: The sweepstakes contest is real, Woody just misread it thinking that he won said contest while the letter said that Woody was only considered for it. He gets a Nice Hat as a consolation prize, though.
- Your Cheating Heart: Ed reveals that Woody cheated on Kate with a half-Native American girl, and that had Ed not stepped in Woody would have left Kate for her before David was born. David is more stunned than anything, but never holds it against his father and instead holds it against Ed for the racist (calling the girl a "Half-breed"), self serving way he brought it up, doing so just to get a piece of Woody's money.