Every year, now that the Academy has expanded the Best Picture category to up to ten films each year, there are one or two movies that seem to have wandered over from some less prestigious award show. The Golden Globes, maybe. This year it was Philomena and this one. Don’t get me wrong, they are both perfectly fine little movies, telling good stories with humor and sadness, each of them anchored by a great performance. Bruce Dern richly deserved his nomination for this, and I wouldn’t have been at all upset if he had won. But really, now. These two films get nominated, and All is Lost is not? And how about Before Midnight? I’m sure I could name a few others if I thought about it.
Anyway, on to the story. Dern is a cantankerous old cuss living in Billings, Montana, and suffering from some degree of dementia. He got a notice in the mail from some Publisher’s Clearing House-type deal that says he has won a million dollars (IF your number matches the winning number, a part he stubbornly refuses to see). He becomes obsessed with the idea of getting to Lincoln, Nebraska to pick up his money. He will not be dissuaded, and if he’s left alone he will start walking toward Lincoln. Finally, in desperation, his long-suffering son, Will Forte, agrees to drive him there.
There is trouble along the way, and they end up spending the weekend with relatives in a small town. The portrayal of the denizens of this rural town is much harsher than anything the Coen Brothers did in Fargo. You begin to wonder how the crops ever get harvested out there on the flat, black-and-white prairie if these laconic idiots are in charge of it. Particularly revolting are his two roly-poly nephews, Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dumber.
That’s enough plot. It all works out okay, which didn’t surprise me. No million dollars, of course, but Bruce did get a swell gimme cap that said PRIZE WINNER that was worth at least fifty cents. It’s a nice little movie, I had a good time once I stopped being totally pissed off at the old fussbudget. Again, Bruce Dern totally owns the best role of his career, and another great performance was by June Squibb as Bruce’s feisty wife. She didn’t start acting until she was sixty, in Woody Allen’s Alice. I got the impression that a lot of the smaller roles were filled by local people, non-actors.