The director of The Descendants, Sideways, and About Schmidt, Alexander Payne returns with Nebraska, an intimate look at the relationship between fathers and sons.  Shot in black and white and carefully scripted by Bob Nelson, Nebraska marks yet another delightfully human story from Payne.

Despite his family’s pleas to ignore it, 80-something alcoholic Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) believes a letter he received stating he has won $1 million. Determined to collect his money, Woody sets out to walk the 700 miles from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska. His wife Kate (Jane Squibb) is beyond frustrated with him, and has taken to playing the role of martyr in the family. Son Ross (Bob Odenkirk) has lost patience with his father, convinced that they need to consider putting him in a nursing home. However, David, despite knowing the letter is a come on, empathizes with his dad, and agrees to drive him to Lincoln.

During the trip, the two men stop in Woody’s hometown of Hawthorne, Nebraska. During their stay the town’s inhabitants, including Woody’s own family, show their true colors when Woody tells them of his newly minted millionaire status. After things go a bit too far, and new information about Woody is revealed, David struggles to help his father maintain his dignity, while fighting off family and old friends who want to take advantage of Woody.

While there are serious moments, Nebraska has plenty of humor. Most of it’s not laugh out loud funny, but dry and direct. The intimate conversation Woody and David have in the bar in Hawthorne about drinking is humorous, heartfelt, and a little depressing all in the span of a few minutes. There’s an emphasis on sex among the older crowd that is slightly uncomfortable, but undeniably entertaining. It’s also funny considering how much Woody’s family doesn’t talk to each other very much about things that matter.

Bruce Dern delivers a strong performance, showing a series of subtle emotions as details of Woody’s life are revealed to David, resulting in a rush of shame and sadness while old age slowly claims his memory. Dern commands the screen, and shares an uneasy chemistry with Will Forte that’s perfect for the story; Forte does a fine job with his first dramatic role, never overplaying a scene. Jane Squibb should not be overlooked. As Kate, she’s opinionated, and foulmouthed. Kate has dealt with Woody’s alcoholism for five decades; she’s had to be tough and fend for herself. Squibb’s energetic and pointed performance is outstanding.

Presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, Paramount’s 1080p black & white presentation is wonderful. The image is crisp throughout, and close-ups reveal a surprising amount of detail in faces, clothes, and even strands of hair. Finer detail, that might otherwise be missed such as the etched/worn surfaces on old buildings or the texture of a road surface are clearly discernible. Blacks and contrast are spot on, offering ample dynamic range.

The lossless DTS-HD MA 3.0 soundtrack won’t present a great challenge for your sound system, but it serves the film well. Dialogue is clean and crisp throughout, and dynamic range is apparent. Ambient sounds are given ample depth, and sound surprisingly full.

English SDH, French, Spanish, and German subtitles are available.

The following extras are included:

  • The Making of Nebraska (HD, 28:13) Interviews with cast and crew provide a thorough behind-the-scenes look at the script, casting process, shooting in black and white, locations, and more.
  • UV Digital Copy
  • iTunes Digital Copy
  • DVD Copy