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A continuation from here
My ponder is confirmed to have validity by reading Patrick Ogle's (@paogle's) review :
Go to see #AlexanderPayne' "#Nebraska" if you love film. It is a masterwork of cinematography and more. http://t.co/cs0DjZOrwU
— patrick ogle (@paogle) December 23, 2013
What I am homing in on (pun intended, as one reads on) is this :
He heads out, on foot, from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his reward. Everyone knows there isn't any reward (except perhaps Woody).
This is where the film opens, with the given of Woody (Bruce Dern) determinedly walking, and being pulled over by a cop car.
What is he doing ? Has he really never seen a scam like this one before - or has his wife Kate (June Squibb) always ferreted away such disquieting items of mail in recent years ?
The film does not invite us to dwell on this - we are straight there in media res, and it does not behove us to upset the apple-cart and ask Why now ? Why this ? Why not before ?
We don't really even think to question whether he seriously purposed to set out on this journey as we see him, but what if he did - or, more to the meat of things, what if he did not ?
A superficial - maybe facile - reading of the narrative has it that he is addled by booze, deluded, and impervious to reasoned argument. But what if this is a cry for help, a latching-onto this letter because it comes from the capital of the state where Woody grew up ? For it is also a given of Nebraska that we start in Montana, but nothing, then or later, tells us why Kate and Woody are there (except that she acquired him, won the prize).
In what unfolds, there is a searching for worth and value, which, with David's (Will Forte's) insight, the $1,000,000 symbolizes - until he gets there, Woody expresses no enthusiasm for his home town, wanting to press on to Lincoln to claim his prize, a little, maybe, as Paul talks about in his second letter to Timothy (4 : 7 - 8) :
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
On the level of symbol, of Nebraska as another place, Woody is seeking something outside himself, just as Paul concentrates on a heavenly realm and considers his earthly life to be a race that he has run and which is now finished. Woody, in turn, is summing up who he is and what he means, and having a reckoning, and without the journey (pretext or not), that would not have happened.
Returning to Billings is the least of that, so the film does not have that in its ambit once the business in town has been addressed. Nor does it really matter what the gestures that David makes at the end signify in actuality, beyond the fact that they uphold his father and his status - Woody has had his homecoming and has found himself, and that is what matters.
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Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)