“Nomadland”

MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: “Nomadland” stars Frances McDormand (Fargo [1996], Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri), David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck, Godzilla [2014]), Linda May, and Swankie. It is directed by Chloé Zhao (The Rider, Songs My Brothers Taught Me), who also wrote the screenplay.

Having lost her job and husband during the Great Recession, a woman (McDormand) turns to a nomad lifestyle, traveling in a van across the country and encountering different people along the way.

Oh how I’ve missed the theater. The movie theater, that is. It’s a lost art, watching a film in a theater. The experience somewhat enhances the movie you watch, especially when you see it with friends and can have conversations afterward of what you have seen. “Tenet” was the last flick I saw in theaters… for the third time. Yeesh. And now we have another McDormand-led Oscar-contender with “Nomadland,” a film I’m sure no one outside the industry has heard of.

Basically your run-of-the-mill drifter feature, “Nomadland” sets out to shed light on a group of people that are kind of forgotten in America. Those who feel detached from society, while at the same time looking to experience life and human connection in a very free-flowing way. You may have seen them in their decked out RVs or beat-up-looking vans in a Walmart parking lot, or maybe even at your workplace (because they do need to make some cash, wherever they can). It’s an interesting world to tap into, one that I was curious to see play out, particularly because of all the buzz it’s received. And of course, come to my not-so-much surprise, it’s a slow burner that revels in the quiet and often reflective moments of nothingness (just what the Academy eats up).

The film prides itself in its scenery; the vast landscapes of America are on display, offering some beautiful shots that I can only see being enjoyed to its full extent in the theater (because, honestly, a tablet or laptop does such a disservice to the broad strokes of cinematography). I can tell this crew had fun traveling and capturing the many places our lead character, Fern, goes to, though for a majority of the feature, that’s really all you’re seeing: life. Scene to scene, you’ll either be watching a mountainside, a dance in a cowboy bar, or workers in an Amazon (the fact that this is solely available for streaming on Amazon baffles me). Fern will go from person to person, having conversations with locals that encapture the small talk we see in our everyday; is it interesting? That’s up to you.

I will say that I was surprised to see how well-paced this was. It could have been my mood (I did joke a bit with my friend as we watched this as well, to pass the time), but it’s not like I was falling asleep to the story that unfolded. McDormand’s performance as Fern is a great one, especially in what she does in the quiet moments that don’t offer much to her. At the core of this story, she’s a heartbroken person who is seeking closure, though it takes a while to receive it. A long while. To the point where, by the end of it, I questioned if this story deserved its runtime…

One could argue that drawing out this tale is what makes it more of a journey, garnering more satisfaction in how it concludes. But I am on the fence. At some point in watching this (roughly around the end of the second act), I realized that the story is built around a few sparse moments of Fern actually expressing how she is feeling in words to other people. We’ll get a huge chunk of wandering, then a short scene of her saying what’s on her mind to keep things interesting, only to go back to wandering. Wash, rinse, and repeat. If you were to cut all the scenes together of what this movie was actually trying to say, you’d get a thirty minute short. But is this the best approach? I don’t know. There’s a piece of me that enjoyed watching the expanse of it. Regardless, in its mundaneness there is immense filler and (shall I say it?) wandering, which I’m sure can divide audiences. Regular popcorn goers would certainly have a distaste for it, and rightfully so. I’m not here to make a case of how it’s art; I commend it for keeping me engaged throughout its adventure, but the adventure isn’t one I would revisit.

In summary, “Nomadland” boasts beautiful scenery, solid performances (Zhao gathered a whole slew of non-actors who did pretty good), a somber score, and a story that takes its time. And while I don’t wish for all films to move at rapid speed, this is one that may have benefitted from not drifting so much. Especially when the structure of their scenes became predictable. If you are a film enthusiast, you may enjoy this one; otherwise, it could be too slow for your tastes. FINAL SCORE: 80%= Juicy Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

One response to ““Nomadland”

  1. Pingback: February Movie Rankings | Juicy Reviews·

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