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film review

Bruce Dern in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska.

While lacking some of the boisterousness of Alexander Payne's recent work, Nebraska is well-tuned to its characters, a grumpy, alcoholic Korean War vet (a fine Bruce Dern) and his hang-dog son David (Will Forte), who agrees to drive him 850 miles to pick up an improbable million-dollar magazine publishing prize.

Shot in black-and-white to suggest a Depression-era view of the American heartland, the story begins in Billings, Mont., where David, a sad-sack bachelor and home-theatre salesman, gets a call after his dad is picked up by the police, walking on the highway.

What follows is a road trip ending up as a small-town family reunion, where the possible imminent millionaire becomes everyone's friend or target.

Some of the comedy (echoing Preston Sturges's Hail the Conquering Hero) is oversilly, but there's a poignant suggestion of a modern-day Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and it works in a thoughtfully wrought film that feels more built to last than Payne's last feature, The Descendants.