The film revolves around Bruce Dern’s character, Woody Grant, and his obsession with journeying to Lincoln, Nebraska to redeem what he thinks is a million dollar ticket, which in reality is just another advertising scam. Woody’s son David Grant, played by Will Forte, eventually gives in to Woody’s relentless attempts to walk to Lincoln and agrees to drive him there to prove that the ticket is indeed fake. What follows is a father-son adventure in which they rediscover their relationship. The film at first would seem like the plot of a shallow and unoriginal Hollywood comedy, but turns out to be a unique and honest story.
The film has little plot, and therefore heavily relies on character development. Although there are many interesting characters, the film focuses on the father and son relationship of Woody and David. It is apparent from the beginning of the film they don’t have the closest relationship: Woody doesn’t know what his son is up to and David finds many things about his father’s past he never knew about as the film goes on.
In the beginning of the film, David tells his dad he can’t just drop everything and take him to Lincoln, to which his father says “what else you got going on?” This statement represent’s David’s mundane life, and inspires him to be something greater than what he is. This is further represented later on in that he lets people walk all over him: his cousins and his father make fun of him and the car he drives. As the film progresses, his character grows and develops to the point where he finally punches someone who upsets him and ultimately in the end when he buys a truck, representing the completion of his character arc.
Woody is a simple and stubborn, he’s slow but his motivation to collect his million dollars is undying, even though the rest of the world seems to tell him to stop. This element of his million dollar ticket seems to almost keep him alive, and keep him moving. His wife claimed that he hadn’t memorized anything for a very long time until that letter came, almost to say that it had brought him life. When Woody is sitting at the kitchen table in front of a glass of milk after his ticket is stolen, he literally looks like he is dead. But as soon as David says “let’s go looking for it,” woody jumps out of his seat ready to go. We learn later on in the film that even though he tells everyone he wants to buy a new truck, the true reason he wanted to collect the million dollars is so that he could leave some for his sons after he was gone. In the end, when it does in fact turn out the ticket was just a scam, they begin to head back home but David makes a stop to trade in his old car for a truck in his father’s name. This concludes the story in that even though he didn’t win the million dollars, in a way he gained everything thing he wanted originally: the truck and a story that his son’s will remember.
Nebraska is truly an artistic character based story. The style and performances of Bruce Dern and Will Forte bring this unlikely story to life. Its uniqueness and developed characters is what carries the film, making it not only entertaining and engaging, but an acclaimed piece of cinema.