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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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James Oldo: You’ve heard rags-to-riches stories. Today, we celebrate the reverse. 
<p>James of Oldo was born into a well-to-do family near Milan in 1364. He married a woman who, like him, appreciated the comforts that came with wealth. But an outbreak of plague drove James, his wife and their three children out of their home and into the countryside. Despite those precautions, two of his daughters died from the plague, James determined to use whatever time he had left to build up treasures in heaven and to build God’s realm on earth. </p><p>He and his wife became Secular Franciscans. James gave up his old lifestyle and did penance for his sins. He cared for a sick priest, who taught him Latin. Upon the death of his wife, James himself became a priest. His house was transformed into a chapel where small groups of people, many of them fellow Secular Franciscans, came for prayer and support. James focused on caring for the sick and for prisoners of war. He died in 1404 after contracting a disease from one of his patients. </p><p>James Oldo was beatified in 1933.</p> American Catholic Blog Charity for the poor is like a living flame: the more dry the wood, the brighter it burns.


 
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