Tag Archives: Alexander Payne


28 Jan


SYNOPSIS: Director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) takes the helm for this black and white road trip drama starring Bruce Dern as a tempestuous Missouri father who’s convinced he’s won a million dollar magazine sweepstakes, and Will Forte as the son who grudgingly agrees to drive him to Nebraska to claim his winnings.


Bruce Dern – Woody Grant

Will Forte – David Grant

Bob Odenkirk – Ross Grant

Stacy Keach – Ed Pegram

June Squibb – Kate Grant

Devin Ratray – Cole

Mary Louise Wilson – Mrs. Grant

Rance Howard – Uncle Ray

REVIEW:  Nebraska, directed by Alexander Payne, tells an American tale, of Woody Grant, played by Bruce Dern, as an old timer who believes he has won a million dollars from a magazine sweepstakes. The story is filmed in black and white, and takes on a journey through the bleak Midwest. Grant is stubborn and willing to walk from his home in Omaha to Nebraska to claim his winnings. His son  David begrudgingly agrees to drive Woody, and an journey of family discovery and Woody’s past unfolds. Bruce Dern’s portrayal alone is enough to see the film, the icing on the cake is the bleak journey of discovery and family secrets we are taken on. The “Grapes of Wrath Setting” adds to the determination of Woody as he slowly but surely gets to his destination of Lincoln, Nebraska. This is a post modern depression tale of middle America as it is today, you might say an up to date American Gothic. This is wonderful cinema and aside from Dern’s tour de force acting, the rest of the cast is a delight as well.

June Squibb plays Kate Grant, the exasperated wife of Woody. She is at her wits end with Woody’s antics and wants him in a home so someone else can watch him. Her portrayal is humorous, real and at times a bit saucy. You can’t help but love her for being outspoken.

Will Forte portrays David Grant, Woody’s youngest son, who reluctantly agrees he should take his father to Lincoln knowing the letter was a scam. David and his father learn to get along during the journey, they drink together, and David even put’s up with his father’s demands. David is determined to either make his dad face reality about the million or see him through to the end of his dream.

Stacy Keach plays Ed Pegram, Woody’s ex-partner in a car mechanic shop in Woody’s home town of Hawthorne Nebraska. Ed is convinced Woody is rich and wants to $10,000 in reparations from all the business that was lost over the years from Woody’s drinking and screw ups.

Rance Howard plays Ray, Woody’s brother and the two hardly say two words together, apparently they have nothing to talk about. Their moments together are comical and paint an unflattering family portrait.

As David and Woody visit the town of Hawthorne, Woody spills the beans about the million, he has been drinking and boasts a little about the letter. When word gets out Woody is rich, although not really the whole town treats him like a celebrity.

The following day, Ross, Woody’s other son portrayed by Bob Odenkirk and Woody’s wife Kate arrive in Haawthorne. They all try to cope with dad being the town celebrity as Woody just can’t wait to go to Nebraska and claim his fortune.

The film has won many accolades since its’ release, including The American Film Institute calling it one of the top ten films of the year and Bruce Dern has been nominated for the Best Actor Oscar.

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the Descendants

25 Apr

Synopsis: From Alexander Payne, the creator of the Oscar-winning Sideways, set in Hawaii, The Descendants is a sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic journey for Matt King (George Clooney) an indifferent husband and father of two girls, who is forced to re-examine his past and embrace his future when his wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki. The event leads to a rapprochement with his young daughters while Matt wrestles with a decision to sell the family’s land handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Clooney as best actor and was up for best picture as well.

Review: The film is a juxtapose of lightness and drama centered around a moving performance by George Clooney as Matt King.  The story takes place in Hawaii as King goes on a journey to discover himself, his worth as a husband, and “the back up parent” of two daughters after his wife has a tragic boating accident and lies in a coma in the hospital.  His ten year old daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) gets into trouble because she is acting out her anger over her mother by throwing chairs into their swimming pool, using foul language and berating classmates. King’s other daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley) is a rebellious typical teenage young lady who lives on another island in a boarding school. King learns his wife is going to die and he has to tell his daughters, his wife’s friends and relatives. When he goes to bring home Alex to talk to her about mother’s condition Alex look’s at her father and realizes that he hasn’t a clue to her behavior.  She tells him that mom has been cheating on him for months and if he didn’t spend so much time at work and neglecting his family perhaps this never would have happened. This is when the journey, catharsis and healing really begin.

When King finds out the name of his wife’s lover from the husband of a couple his wife was friend’s with, Alex and her father bond over trying to find the guy. King just wants to see him and find closure, his intelligence and restraint rule over his inner jealousy and contempt. Clooney’s portrayal navigates through the emotions with intensity and humor when he finally confronts the guy.  Shailene Woodley‘s Alex, realistically portrays the young teen who has to take on an adult role but emotionally isn’t near up to the task, despite her rude bravado. Nick Krause  plays Alex’s goofy tag-along pal Sid, who has a gift for saying the wrong thing, especially in front of Alex’s grumpy grandpa (Robert Forster) who belts him in the eye for being stupid.  Also notable are Beau Bridges, as a laid-back, long haired cousin who understands the business end of selling the family property, and Judy Greer brings a subtle sub-surface hurt to the wife of the “other man” in King’s wife’s life.

The film strength lies in the journey and you cry and laugh over King reuniting his family under such extraordinary but real circumstances. He goes from being out of loop about his wife’s private life to bringing closure, warmth and understanding to his two daughters. The film is available on DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix, Redbox and On Demand.