Screengrab: Welcome to Old Codgersville

Richard Lutz slumps in front of the box to find the best movie on TV this week.


screengrab 1955_Television_advertising_4934882110I always liked Bruce Dern. He was out of his skull psychotic in King of Marvin Gardens, violently crazed in Coming Home, endearing in Silent Running and simply believable in The Great Gatsby.

But now in his late seventies, he really hit his idiosyncratic stride playing an old bumbling pensioner out to claim his imagined million dollar prize in the movie Nebraska (Thurs, Sky Movie Select, 18.00)

In living black and white – rare these days – his character Woody Grant refuses to believe friends and family who say there is no pot of gold at the end of the magazine junk mail letter that pops through his door. It is a con.

But he ups stakes from his crumbling, crummy life and heads to Lincoln, Nebraska, amid the gloom and misty winter cold of the Midwest to get his illusory cheque.

Dern’s character is an American outcast, a Willy Loman loner who knows he has failed family, friends and anyone he tried to do business with. But he’s damned if he doesn’t patch one or two things up with this seven figure prize he is convinced he has won. Moatly, he wants to buy a new pick up truck to show the world he is worth something after all.

His faithful and drop-shouldered son decides he has to accompany his deluded semi-senile dad across the dreary plans. And so director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants, About Schmidt) created a small glistening gem of a road movie about father and son who really don’t like each other but are magnetised by the visceral pull of blood and DNA.

The 2013 movie received six Oscar nominations.  Dern should have won best actor if LA wasn’t so hung up with age. As for Dern (the name itself seems like an American cussword), it is his movie, his epitaph as he himself lurches towards old age. He grabbed the role despite de Niro, Duvall and Hackman being considered.

His old grump is sad, hilarious and downright believable. It is his best role yet. Age has not reduced him.