Million Dollar State
By Adam Sturrock
Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: Bob Nelson
Cast: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacey Keach
It is often the fantasy of many to be filthy stinking rich. The ability to buy nice cars, yachts and wax lyrical about the “love of their life” who *suddenly* appeared out of the blue is often the subject of aspiration of many. Hark back to the XFactor contestants who grace our Tvs dreaming of becoming big stars that sells loads of albums; that stems from the same aspirations
But what if you were unable to collect a cheque for $1million because it is in another state and don’t have a car to get there? This is the predicament of Woody Grant (Dern), a Senile, grouchy pensioner who believes he is the recipient of a big money cheque that needs to be collected in Lincoln, Nebraska. Shot in black and white, we see his and his family’s struggle to navigate the social minefield of uncollected debts from old friends and the sniffing media who want a big scoop.
With the furrowed brow of Dern’s, we see Woody begrudgingly deny his lack of youth and faculties in order to collect that payment. Most of the time, he appears bamboozled and socially inept which allows him to endear himself to the audience. His wife, Kate (played by a hilarious June Squibb) is the polar opposite to him, often acting as a boisterous, bossy and brash ying to Woody’s quiet yang. Often announcing her history of men “trying to get in her pants”, she lightens the mood in what is mostly a jarringly real story.
Purposely shot in monochrome, the town seems sterile, quaint and old fashioned, further emphasising Woody as the reluctant celebrity that he is ordained to be. Naively announcing himself as a millionaire brings about old friends that circle around trying to draw blood and refusing to believe that the rumors are false. We see Woody’s son, David (Forte) try to restrict the damage onset by speculation.
Like all journey films, we witness uncovered histories that slowly unearth who Woody truly is but which doesn’t seem cliched. The problem with the film that I found, was that it has a very slow pacing and at times, the locations blur together until they become a mish/mash of dull constructions on a road. The film admittedly has a lot of character due to its aesthetic and this lends itself to the iconic look that director, Alexander Payne was apparently aiming for.
Overall, a sleepy journey through Nebraska is slowly brought to life up by understated performances from its cast.