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MPAA Rating: R
Director: Alexander Payne
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb
Runtime: 1 hr 55 mins
What It Is?: Woody Grant (Dern) is an octogenarian living in Montana who believes he’s won 1 million dollars. Sadly for Woody, the piece of mail he continues to read is simply a piece of mass marketing mailed to many people. His wife Kate (Squibb) and son David (Forte) are very tired of Woody’s overzealous attitude towards getting to Lincoln, Nebraska to “claim” his prize. One thing they didn’t account for was the mix up that would be caused when Woody returns to his hometown in Hawthorne, Nebraska. Family asking for money that doesn’t exist and a scheming former business partner Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach) looking to make a buck or two as well. All these things coupled with crippling Dementia that seems to grasp at his mind are making for a tale you won’t soon forget…unlike our friend Woody.
What We Think!: A 21st century American Gothic with its black and white cinematography. Payne uses a subtle hand, something he’s a master at to formulate these characters as more than just Midwest caricatures. These are instead well fleshed out characters whose ambitions are honest and intent even more so. Dern makes his Dementia-ridden Woody a guy we hope to see get his payday while Forte shows he’s much more than just a good comedy hand. Kudos to Breaking Bad star Bob Odenkirk in his role as Woody’s other (more successful) son Ross.
Our Grade: A-, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. I didn’t initially believe the hype and thought it would be nothing more than mere Oscar fodder. Yet as Payne has done again and again with Sideways, and The Descendants he’s taken something that is a heavy issue (i.e. death and infidelity, or alcoholism, and neurosis) and making a modern masterpiece out of it. No one wants to get old for all the reasons that make Woody such a tragic figure, but it is Dern’s portrayal that has us hopefully for Woody’s future and wants him to regain some sense of self-lost in his battle against his own consciousness.