Inkspots: ‘Nebraska’ a must see for message fans
by RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Jan 26, 2014 | 516 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“I work in a home for people with dementia. They are people who still have feelings. People are often frightened of dementia because they do not understand. But they are people like you and me ... they are just trapped in a world of their own.”

— Excerpt from a website

posting by “Karen”

(August 2010)


Adults of all ages who are entrusted with the care of elderly parents should see the movie “Nebraska.”

In my opinion, it is one of Hollywood’s finest “message” movies in years. An acknowledged fanatic for films that make you think — as opposed to some blockbusters that try your patience with an unending run of violence and profanity — I was amazed at the number of heartstrings this movie tugged.

Good movies are like poetry. They are interpreted by viewers who see them just like poems are defined by readers who read them. Both are breeding grounds for all things diverse.

Starring an aged Bruce Dern, whose face has been noticeably absent in starring roles (he’s more of a supporting kind of guy) on the big screen over the past few years, “Nebraska” offers a refreshing ensemble of messages. The most obvious is the plight of the elderly and the loosening grip on reality faced by many.

But there’s so much more. Here’s my take.

It’s about the charm of the American small town.

It’s about dreams lost and hope gained.

It’s about the fraud of unscrupulous marketers whose aim is to lure through whatever means necessary.

It’s about the frailties of senior citizens, but not just physically or mentally; it speaks to their vulnerabilities amid an ocean of sharks.

It’s about family.

It’s about relationships of long ago and the complexities of their rebirth.

It’s about greed whose ill will is compounded by opportunity.

It’s about alcoholism and its impact on all it touches.

It’s about mistakes of the past and the pain of the present when they are rekindled.

It’s about chasing a pot of gold and the trials of the race in finding it.

It’s about the promise of marriage and the heartbreak of infidelity.

It’s about making life better for the coming generations by those of the past who have lived without.

It’s about accepting yesterday’s failure as a tool for tomorrow’s success.

It’s about gray hair, unfocused eyes, a wandering imagination and an unwavering human spirit.

It’s about an innocence in believing.

It’s about the imperfections of being human.

It’s about the value of true friends and the depth of their best wishes.

It’s about the innate good in people and their willingness to sacrifice for others.

It’s about the shades of gray even in a world of black and white.

But most of all, it’s about a grown son, David (played by Will Forte), who slowly learns to see life through the pained eyes of his aging dad, Woody Grant (played by Bruce Dern).

Woody is an old man who may struggle with Alzheimer’s (the viewer is never really told) who believes he has won $1 million compliments of a sweepstakes marketing scheme whose aim is actually to sell magazine subscriptions. It’s an unseemly scam whose so-called legality borders on the criminal, yet it’s the same kind of mailing most of us have received in our mailboxes of the past and present.

Woody intends to claim his prize, even if it means walking the road shoulders from Billings, Mont., to Lincoln, Neb. He wants it for two reasons — to buy a new pickup truck and to have something to pass down to his children after he dies.

His wife, Kate (played by June Squibb) is the real scene stealer. She’s a hoot in this movie, but her challenge in dealing with an aged and “confused” mate is a story that has been told for years in homes across America. She’s a gruff character, yet beneath all the impatience lies a heart of gold — for her husband and her longtime marriage.

A scene that defines Woody’s life comes when Kate stands up for her husband in the face of family jealousy (pardoning one profound expletive, yet one which makes her point). But a couple of my favorite segments came in Woody’s hometown of Hawthorne, Neb., during the family’s visit to a cemetery to pay respects to lost loved ones and to the dilapidated, old farmhouse where he was raised as a boy.

But the film reaches deepest into the moviegoer’s heart when David does what only a grown son can do best. He believes in his dad — in spite of all — by taking him to Lincoln, knowing all along there would be no pot of gold.

Filmed in black and white, “Nebraska” doesn’t need color; it is delivered by the characters. This rare special effect comes with purpose. It tells the movie’s haunting story — of a life gone by and the people it abandoned.

“Nebraska” has been nominated for six Academy Awards. Whether it wins any is irrelevant ... because it has won my heart.

In researching for this column, I came across an anonymous quote: “Love your parents and treat them with love and care; for you will only know their value when you see their empty chair.”

“Nebraska” re-awakened my senses to this truth.

But for me, it’s a little too late.

My parents are gone. But they will dwell in my heart forever.

Memories of a golden day remain their legacy, yet “Nebraska” has given them new life; at least, in the eyes of their son, and that’s exactly what an inspiring message on the big screen should do.