It is fitting that "Nebraska" is filmed in black and white because it is something you would have seen on the small TV screen in the 50s. There is the bleak picture of America's heartland with nary a sign of a teenager and all the citizens are caricatures from Hollywood's pen.
The few modern touches consist of an old man, possibly suffering dementia, thinking he has won the million dollar magazine sweepstakes. In their last pictures do you remember Henry Fonda, Cary Grant or Gary Cooper playing 'old' men with mental problems? Another 21st century touch is having an old woman very comfortable with the 'f' word and/or talking about all the men who have wanted her or lifting her skirt to show a dead man what he missed. Can you picture Ethel Barrymore or Claudette Colbert doing either?
"Nebraska" is basically road trip story between a father and son in order for the father to collect the millions dollars he knows he won and for his younger, of two sons, to get to know him better before it is too late. Bruce Dern plays the father Woody Grant, Will Forte his younger son David, Bob Odenkirk the older son Ross Grant and June Squibb is Kate, their mother and Woody's wife. When driving from their home in Billings, Montana, where Woody and Kate moved to as a young married couple, they stop in Hawthorne, a fictional farming town, where they were born and raised. While here we get to meet other members of the family at a last minute reunion. All the men, including Woody's brother, Ray, (Rance Howard), are the taciturn men of the midwest and their wives having the weathered look of living a hard working life. It is Ray's two overweight sons, played by Tim Driscoll and Devin Ratray who are the more outgoing particularly when they are talking about cars and then Woody's million dollars.
Woody Grant is an old alcoholic, Korean war veteran who once owned a business with his friend Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach) and hearing he has won the money turns on him as do most of the other folks in Hawthorne, including his family, all wanting a piece of the pie.
Bruce Dern shines in his passive role markedly different than the many loony roles he has played while Will Forte, having the modern look of the unshaven actor, holds his own in the scenes with Dern but it is June Squibb who steals every scene she is in. After 55 plus years on the stage, TV and in the movies this is her breakout role. She handles the lines, and laughs, of screenplay writer Bob Nelson as if she wrote them. Angela McEwan, as the owner of the town's paper and who once was in love with Woody, also stands out.
The direction by Alexander Payne as the music by Mark Orton, along with the cinematography, has the black and white feel of Montana and Nebraska.
"Nebraska" was made for the large theatre screen but having the feel of a 1950s TV movie it would probably be better watching it on television.