COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 55min
STARRING: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk
Bonding: Dern (left) and Forte
With the first-rate resource of Bob Nelson’s discerning screenplay, director Alexander Payne (The Descendants), bless his storytelling finesse, sketches the Grant family of Billings, Montana, in economical, black-and-white strokes. Its father, Woodrow (‘Woody”, played by Dern), is a crusty, mule-stubborn ex-drunk, with an ornery wife (Squibb) and two grown sons, electronics salesman David (Forte) and newsreader Ross (Odenkirk). Since David is more sympathetic to and forgiving of his irascible old man, he’s the poor sap who offers to drive borderline-gaga Woody to Lincoln, Nebraska, where Woody is convinced he will collect a patently fraudulent sweepstakes offer of a million dollars.
The trip doesn’t begin well: Woody loses his teeth and cuts his head, requiring a detour to a family get-together. David’s needy yet frustrated attitude to his dad, clearly a painful childhood hangover, isn’t eased by any of this at the outset, or by the money-grubbing ructions of the hangers-on they encounter. Bunking down with the phlegmatic clan is life-sapping to the point of anxiety, but contrarily, that’s also their unvarnished charm. With every plain-spoken note so true, an old man’s quest for autonomy becomes a gentle illumination of abiding love.