(3.5 / 5)
A meditative, black-and-white exploration about growing up, growing old, and accepting life’s defeats.
Middle-of-the-road bachelor David Grant (Will Forte) takes his indolent, cantankerous father, Woody (Bruce Dern), on a road trip to collect on a junk-mail flyer for a million dollars.
David does it in the hope that Woody will stop wandering down the highway; Woody, meanwhile, longs inexplicably to buy a truck with the proceeds. On the way, they’ll stop off with family, scavenging after some of Woody’s non-existent new-found riches, and try to rebuild a relationship built on mutual resentment.
A gentle elegy to the humdrum beauty of the American Midwest, Alexander Payne’s direction of Nebrasa is gentle and insightful; Kate Grant as crotchety, apple-faced wife/mother Kate and Breaking Bad’s Bob Odenkirk’s “go-getter” older brother round out the cast. Dern’s performance netted him Best Actor at Cannes. Passive yet expressive, stubborn and scowl-y, the image that seems likely to stay with you is Woody trudging slowly down that motorway; desperate to recapture a sense of agency.
The film takes its time and showcases few outright revelations, but as a slower-paced, more naturalistic About Schmidt, Nebraska is a quietly touching and bittersweet.