Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Without access to a vehicle or assistance from his nagging wife (June Squibb), a confused, alcoholic, and irascible old man (Bruce Dern) is absolutely dead set on walking from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska (a distance of only about 900 miles) in order to collect his million dollar lottery winnings, you know the kind of mailing sent by some promotional company in order to procure magazine subscriptions. Unwilling to listen to reason, his youngest son (Will Forte) decides to humor the old man and take him along for the ride, a bonding excursion which features a trip into the past when they decide to detour in their hometown of Hawthorne. After trips to both Hawaii and California wine country in his last two films, Alexander Payne brings it all back to his home state with another tender and matter of fact look at American life. Here, from a reflective, and alternately hilarious and glum screenplay from Bob Nelson, he uses his sardonic approach to glimpse into a wounded yet jointed family in a part of the country he seems to know like the back of his hand. After over 50 years in the business and nearly 150 film roles, Bruce Dern finally receives the role of a lifetime, generating empathy in nearly every frame from a camera that studies his expressive and bedraggled face. He receives wonderful support from SNL alumnus Forte as his sad sack son, Squibb as his equally dyspeptic wife, and a peppered, impeccably chosen supporting cast. The film is further lifted by Phedon Papamichael's gorgeous black and white cinematography, especially during transitory landscape sequences which are given their own flavor by a beautifully somnolent soundtrack.