Nebraska is a film about life in grayscale. Our minds, our memories and the past are not always just black and white. They exist in a shade of gray, not just partially remembered, but rather selectively remembered.
In the film we are introduced to Woody Grant, played by Bruce Dern, and his son David, played by Will Forte along with a slew of other hilariously unique characters like Woody’s wife, Kate, played by June Squibb. Woody is in the twilight of his life and on the cusp of dementia. He thinks he won a million bucks after receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail.
David is in a rut, without a girlfriend and recovering from alcoholism, a disease his father passed down to him. David knows the letter his father received is a farce, but decides to drive his father from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim his money. It’s a way for David to spend time with his old man and runaway from his life for a while.
As the two slowly make their way across Montana and into Nebraska, they stop in Woody’s old hometown of Hawthorne, Nebraska. The pair stays with Woody’s older brother and like most rural towns, there isn’t a whole lot do besides drink with friends.
The cars seen in the little town of Hawthorne would make you think it’s 1998 or some other not-so-long-ago, but sort-of long ago time. There are old Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Ford trucks abound. The cars are too new to be considered classics, but too old to be considered valuable. There’s little youth left in Hawthorne as the only bars and restaurants seem to be patronized by retirees.
Like the small town of Hawthorne, the cars driven by characters in Nebraska have personality, but they don’t overshadow the film. It’s fitting that a movie about road tripping is less about the actual cars, but more about the setting they create to allow characters to develop.
David drives a second-gen Subaru Legacy wagon between the years 1994 and 1999. The beat up old station wagon symbolizes the general malaise afflicting David, but it also symbolizes the differences with his father. Woody used to run a garage in Nebraska and you can bet they didn’t service many imports. While David appears to be a much different person that his father, as the film continues, we learn they might not be so different after all.
Woody’s oldest son Ross, played by Bob Odenkirk, owns a Kia Rondo. The highlight of this Rondo’s role in Nebraska comes when David and Bob decide to steal an old air compressor that originally belonged to Woody. Turns out that air compressor wasn’t in fact Woody’s and while putting the air compressor back, the homeowners return putting the Grant family in quite a pickle.
David turns-in his Legacy to buy a used Ford Ranger at a Nebraska car dealer. Woody said he always wanted a new truck and even though he couldn’t drive, David put his dad’s name on the title. After buying the Ranger, David help Woody wrap up his unfinished business in Hawthorne giving viewers some of the most touching scenes of Nebraska.
Written by Max Katsarelas