Nebraska Blu-ray Review
The old man, Woody Grant, walks in the shoulder of a busy highway. A police officer pulls to the side and asks where he’s going. The old man points way down the road. The cop takes him to the station, where the man’s son, David, has to pick him up.
“You told the sheriff you were walking to Nebraska,” says David. “That’s right,” says Woody. “To get my million dollars.” Woody (Bruce Dern, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance; that’s his first since 1978’s COMING HOME) has received a sweepstakes in the mail that states him as the sole winner of a $1 million prize and, with time running out, he aims to make the trip from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect.
His sons, David and Ross (Bob Odenkirk, AMC’s BREAKING BAD), would be the first to admit their old man has made many mistakes in his life: he drank too much, offered as little attention to them as possible and may not have loved their mother, Kate (June Squibb, who earned her first Oscar nod for her turn), as much as they would have liked. And yet David agrees to drive his dad the 12-hour trip (guided by Mark Orton’s score, which is as repetitive and yet as hopeful as the open road).
I’ve described the plot of NEBRASKA to a number of people, and each time it’s been greeted with a chuckle. That’s understandable; many of us have received similar notifications that we’re the big winner either in our mail or e-mail inboxes. But NEBRASKA is less of a comedy than the plot may initially let on. First-time screenwriter Bob Nelson (who won an Independent Spirit Award for his work) includes quite a few laughs (see: the Hawthorne scenes with Cole and Bart, played by Devin Ratray and Tim Driscoll, and a number of strong one-liners given to Kate), but it’s really a rather touching and poetic story.
The ideas of both redemption and regaining dignity are significant parts of NEBRASKA, which is directed by Nebraska native Alexander Payne (2011’s THE DESCENDANTS, 2004’s SIDEWAYS). This is a man chasing not just a prize that has eluded him his entire life, but the chance to, in his words, “be somebody,” and offer something positive to his family. Here is a man who has done wrong for so long that he’d take even a longshot fantasy—the kind we all throw in the garbage or mark as spam—as the opportunity to make those he loves look at him as they never have.
This is a character that, in the wrong hands, could feel hokey and forced. But Dern handles Woody as the man he should be handled as. It’s a performance so subtle and calculated and honest that it will be held in perhaps a higher regard than Dern’s turns in classics such as COMING HOME, THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS and THAT CHAMPIONING SEASON. We hope Dern continues making movies, but if he were to stop now, this performance would be a perfect punctuation to a stellar 50+-year career.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Phedon Papamichael’s widescreen, black-and-white photography is absolutely beautiful, and, fittingly, this is a pristine, gorgeous high-definition transfer, faithfully capturing the cinematographer’s exquisite work. This is a flawless and natural transfer, with fine details, strong textures and deep black levels.
Audio: English 3.0 DTS-HD Master Audio; French 3.0 Dolby Digital; Spanish 3.0 Dolby Digital; German 3.0 Dolby Digital. Subtitles in English, French, Spanish and German. The audio transfer is also highly commendable, with clear dialogue, a clean music score and natural sounds that help create an atmosphere in everything from the open roads to the crowded bars.
The Making of NEBRASKA (28:50): This featurette looks at the movie’s origins, the characters, the look and more.