No spoiler alert necessary here, but I will say that the final 20 minutes or so of Alexander Payne’s Nebraska are glorious in a way that might just make you remember why you go to movies. Simple and bittersweet, this film builds to something very nice indeed.
How did we get there? Road trip. A black-and-white character study from a screenplay by former Almost Live comedian Bob Nelson, Nebraska is arranged around that classic American storytelling form, the car ride. The trip only lasts a few days, but a lot of ground is covered.
Despite the title, we begin in Billings, Montana, where an elderly man named Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is driving his wife, Kate (June Squibb), and younger son, David (Will Forte), crazy. He’s convinced of the authenticity of a bogus sweepstakes come-on letter. It tells him that if Woody presents the letter to the company headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska, he’ll claim a million-dollar prize.