Having received a letter in the mail saying that he had won $1,000,000, Woody Grant begins his journey from Montana to Nebraska regardless of whether anyone will help him or not. His son, David, fells compelled to action let his father believe in his fortune and chooses to take his father to Nebraska to claim his prize with the Mega Sweepstakes Marketing group. While they run into a couple of bumps along the way, they find themselves in his hometown in central Nebraska and settle in for the weekend to wait until the office reopens on Monday. While there, the news about Woody’s newfound fortune gets out and causes quite the stir, turning him into a local celebrity. As Woody and David struggle to navigate the attention his status has drawn, his friends and family begin to swoop in to get their cut of the winnings.
Starring: Bruce Dern (Woody Grant), Will Forte (David Grant), June Squibb (Kate Grant), Bob Odenkirk (Ross Grant), Stacy Keach (Ed Pegram), Mary Louise Wilson (Aunt Martha), Rance Howard (Uncle Ray), Tim Driscoll (Bart), Devin Ratray (Cole), Angela McEwan (Peg Nagy), Kevin Kunkel (Cousin Randy), Missy Doty (Noel)
As the absent-minded central character of the film, Dern plays a determined and trusting person who clearly struggled with feeling a sense of purpose outside of the contest winnings. More complicated was Forte, who emerged as quite the dramatic actor. He surprised with his ability to bring a sense of connection with the viewer and flawed efforts to help his father. Squibb was fantastically funny with her shortness and sarcasm, while Keach quickly went from just overbearing to truly unnerving.
Portraying the harsh midlands of the US and the effects that money can have on those without, Alexander Payne captures a brilliant yet simple tale of a man possessed with a mission. Woody had become a somewhat defeated and purposeless man, but the news of winning a prize perked him up from his purely alcohol-infused state. While he still was struggling with his alcoholism, the newfound purpose drove him to try to live. While David was essentially resigned to chase him around, Woody’s reserved nature kept the secret of his real obsession with the mission to get the money, but it also allowed his friends and family to believe that they deserved to take some of the winnings. This led to threats and aggressive acts to forcibly take the money away from Woody.
While the film focused mostly around Woody, David story was just as interesting. With his dad leading him on this journey across four states, David had been putting his life on hold. He was so caught up with his dad’s care that he let himself forget that the letter Woody received was actually a marketing scam. David slowly saw the dangers of money closing in on his father and how sweet and innocent he really was. He began to see a little of himself in his father as well. When he finally learned the real reason his father was obsessed withe the money, he was warmed and chose to find a way to make sure his father knew he appreciated him.
This is a simple yet heartwarming film that followed the touching relationship between a father and son. While the pace can be a little slow at times, it appropriately portrays the feeling of the midwest lifestyle.
Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5