There are variations. In Election, no one is redeemed. In Sideways, the characters never become likable.

Woody never becomes likable, either. But when surrounded by his wife (June Squibb, who's wonderful) and brothers, he looks like one of the least fucked up, no matter how out of it he may be.

See, Woody has this idea that he's won $1 million, and he's going to walk to Nebraska to collect it. His son, David (Will Forte), trying to humor the old man while letting him down easily, offers to give him a ride. Woody and David stop at Woody's hometown. Eventually word gets out that Woody is a millionaire, and the vultures start circling.

There's nothing really surprising or outrageous in Bob Nelson's screenplay (my pick for the year's best original script), but the direction, performances and words on the page combine to make Nebraska one of the best films of the year. Dern is excellent. So is Forte, showing a knack for subtlety he never used on "Saturday Night Live."

Stay with Nebraska. The first half-hour is rough going, but it rewards the patient.

Directed by Alexander Payne
With Bruce Dern, Will Forte and Stacy Keach
UA DeVargas 6
115 min. Nebraska follows what has become a template for director Alexander Payne: Take a character—in this case, Woody (Bruce Dern)—make him unlikable, and set him on a path to redemption.