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Alexander Payne’s poignant road movie paints an affectionate portrait of the smalltown midwest and features a fantastic performance from Bruce Dern.


  • Director Alexander Payne
  • Producers Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa
  • Screenwriter Bob Nelson
  • With Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach
  • USA 2013
  • 114 mins
  • 15
  • UK distribution Paramount Pictures

Alexander Payne’s latest charts a trip taken from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska by David Grant (Will Forte) with his father Woody (Bruce Dern), an irascible, forgetful old boozer who believes, despite David’s advice to the contrary, that he’s won a million dollars and must therefore travel the 700 miles to collect it. Inevitably, as in About Schmidt, Sideways and The Descendants, the journey proves a sentimental education: as the pair encounter Woody’s estranged family, friends and foes, David starts to see how dad managed to turn into such a grouch. Shot by Payne regular Phedon Papamichael in lovely black-and-white widescreen, the film paints an affectionate but never sentimentalised portrait of the smalltown midwest; indeed, it’s pleasingly ambivalent towards contemporary American notions of communal and familial responsibility. At once sweet and sour, bitingly funny and undeniably sad, the movie is a model of tonal delicacy and precision. And in Dern’s performance, Payne has a pitch-perfect instrument through which to voice his rich, mixed feelings about the world he grew up in. Laconic but extremely eloquent in his glances and gestures, Woody is a truthful, supremely watchable creation, and rightly won Dern the Best Actor award in Cannes.

Geoff Andrew

Read the Time Out review.

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