Alexander Payne’s Nebraska gives us one of the year’s great performances. Bruce Dern plays Woody, a quiet-but-cantankerous drunk who believes he’s won a million dollars in a magazine sweepstakes. His wife (June Squibb, like Dern a likely Oscar nominee) sees through the scam, so Woody starts walking from Montana to Lincoln, Neb., to claim his prize. His son (Saturday Night Live alumnus Will Forte) soon steps in to drive him, and thus a road trip movie is born. Reaching Woody’s hometown along the way, there are old scores to settle, old skeletons take out of the closet for air, and old wounds to heal. Payne effortlessly reveals big laughs, poignancy and outright heartache from this simple story and he trusts his actors, who all deliver. Nebraska may not have the sizzle of award hopefuls like Gravity or 12 Years a Slave, but it’s every bit as accomplished and satisfying.
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