After a long week you want to sit down and be able to watch a quality movie that will make you laugh, cry, sit at the edge of your seat, and have fun. Netflix Your Weekend is Reel World Theology’s weekly pick for a movie currently available on Netflix Instant that will not only entertain but make you think and engage the story you are watching. If you have a suggestion for a Netflix Instant movie, email Josh at J.A.Crabb22@gmail.com with the subject line “Netflix Your Weekend”.
NETFLIX YOUR WEEKEND – NEBRASKA directed by Alexander Payne, starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte
Here in the Midwest, the temperature has dipped, snow flurries are common sight, and it’s the holiday season where expectations for our winter run high (until February when we all get cabin fever and want to kill each other) and family connects and reconnects for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Winter Break. It seems only fitting that this week’s recommendation is Alexander Payne’s most recent, Oscar-nominated film, Nebraska. The movie starts in Billings, Montana, but the bulk of the movie takes place in the small town of Hawthorne, Nebraska, the hometown of Woody Grant, played by Bruce Dern. Woody thinks he has hit the sweepstakes jackpot when he gets a notice in the mail he was won $1 Million and he tries everything he can to start making his way to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim his prize. Even though the sweepstakes is obviously just a marketing scam, Woody’s son David, played by Will Forte, agrees to take him to Lincoln so he can spend more time with his dad and help him come to his senses. After making their way into Nebraska, and being waylaid by an accident Woody has while drinking and losing his false teeth (hilarious), they pass through and stop to visit family in their old hometown of Hawthorne. It’s when they stop over in their hometown and word gets out that Woody is a millionaire that David begins to find out more about his dad, his mom, extended family, and the people he grew up with that still call the rural farm town their home.
Being a Midwesterner, there is so much about this movie that is an incredibly true depiction of what small town life can be like. I can imagine myself sitting in the living room with my dad’s side of the family watching football and making pointless conversation about how long it took me to get somewhere or what car I am driving nowadays. I assume a lot of my friends and family have had similar experiences, especially my wife, whose hometown of Oakfield, WI almost seems like a carbon copy of Hawthorne. Not only that, I think the characters in this movie, especially Woody’s brothers and sisters, and David’s cousins, are a great and really honest characterization of the down-home nature of previous Midwestern generations. What I loved about this movie is how it wasn’t boring at all to characterize these thoroughly small town, petty, and at times, lazy, people that make up this small town. It’s a stark contrast to the normal stereotype that all Midwesterners are hard-working, honest people, which commercials and movies have bought and sold back to us over the decades. While that is very true, some of the hardest working people I know come from here, I also have met some people that fit Payne’s characters to a T (Of course, not you my fine circle of friends, family, and neighbors from the Midwest who read these articles).
While I think the movie has a lot to say about the Midwest and the people found in these small towns, the real thrust of Nebraska’s story is a father-son story/road trip movie that is both sad and heart-warming. Woody’s motivations and, at times, questionable character are ripped open as David talks to the people of their old hometown, and David grows slightly disillusioned with who his dad was and is. However, every time you think David has good reason to end their road trip and write-off Woody’s fool’s errand, he discovers some equally revelatory tidbit that brings him back to his father’s side. Ultimately, as the story unfolds, we see there is an underlying warm tenderness and unshakeable love that exists between Woody and David, Woody and his wife, Kate, an acerbic and tactless woman played by June Squibb, and between all of them. An impeccable script by Bob Nelson, screen-commanding performances from Dern and Squibb, and hilarious moments from the entire Grant clan, Nebraska is a wonderful and comic story of father/son relationships, aging, and family. Well worth your time and moves into being one of my favorite movies of 2014.