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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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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