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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Nebraska

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Bob Odenkirk, Tim Driscoll, Devin Ratray and June Squibb star in a scene from the movie "Nebraska."
Never underestimate the restorative power of a road trip. That's one of the messages of the comedy and drama blend "Nebraska" (Paramount Vantage).

This quiet, unassuming, yet in part delightful film tackles a big issue—caring for elderly parents—with realism and sensitivity. Even as it celebrates familial love, respect and understanding, however, screenwriter Bob Nelson's script also includes material that makes this journey through the heartland an unsuitable outing for most viewers.

Director Alexander Payne ("The Descendants") made a wise decision to shoot his picture in black and white. The result is a canvas both stark and rich, a study in contrasts which suits the combative family relationships on display.

Woody (Bruce Dern), the grizzled and frail patriarch, receives a sweepstakes solicitation in the mail offering a "prize" of $1 million, to be collected in person in Lincoln, Neb. That's a long way from his home in Montana, but Woody is convinced he's a winner.

Unable to drive, showing signs of dementia, and an alcoholic to boot, Woody sets out on foot, much to the consternation of his overbearing wife, Kate (June Squibb). She sides with one of her sons, Ross (Bob Odenkirk), in deciding that it's time for Woody to be committed to an institution.

Her other son, David (Will Forte), is much more sympathetic. "Dad doesn't need a nursing home," he tells Ross. "He needs something to live for."

As crazy as it sounds, David consents to drive his father to Lincoln to collect his "winnings." For David, it's a change of pace from his mundane existence as a salesman, and an opportunity to mend fences with his estranged father. That's easier said than done, given Woody's short attention span and fondness for disappearing in search of beer.

An extended pit stop brings the duo to Woody's hometown, now much changed. Enter the dotty extended family, including Woody's brother, Ray (Rance Howard), Ray's wife, Martha (Mary Louise Wilson), and their devious grown boys, Bart (Tim Driscoll) and Cole (Devin Ratray).

Before long, Woody reveals his status as a supposed millionaire. This makes him the hometown hero, and soon all of his old "friends" come calling, hoping to share in his good fortune. Among them is Woody's former business partner Ed (Stacy Keach), who's looking to settle a few scores.

"Nebraska" takes its good time, inviting the audience to savor the hard-bitten slice of middle America on display, warts and all. Amid the salty language and bawdy humor, there are some positive core values and good people on display, the latter too often obscured by the few bad eggs.

The film contains frequent profane and crude language, some sexual references and innuendoes and a few jokes directed at Catholics. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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