The 2014 Oscars were unique for both the number of films that focused on mature issues and the number of nominated actors who are 50+ years old. For years, baby boomers have been influencing market trends and now it appears that their reach has extended all the way to Hollywood. One this year’s stand out movies is the starkly filmed and emotionally complex Nebraska.
The success of this film hinges almost entirely on great performances by Bruce Dern and June Squib. Dern’s character Woody is a man of few words who appears to be slipping into dementia. When he receives a letter telling him that he has won a million dollars, he becomes intent on traveling to Montana to collect his prize. Despite the fact that the letter is part of an age old scam, Woody’s family is unable to convince him that he isn’t the winner.
Eventually, his son David recognizes the depth of his father’s stubborn determination to make it to Montana and instead of fighting the delusion, David joins his father on a road trip. Along the way they run into old friends and family who all seem a little too interested in Woody’s new found fortune.
The bald and wide open landscape that the two men travel across is such a vital part of the story that this film represents one of those rare and beautiful instances where setting evolves into character. This family’s story was meant to be a visual journey. Perfect casting and the fact that it is filmed in black and white help make this one of the year’s best films.
In the end, Nebraska isn’t a road trip movie, it isn’t a father-son bonding movie, it isn’t a comedy and it isn’t a tragedy. It is a truly unique and original film that is brilliant in its ability to portray the complexities of relationships, growing old, and exactly what it means to be human.
Although Nebraska was nominated for six Oscars, and did not go home with any big wins, it is still a worthy film that will stay with you long after the credits roll.