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It’s a Wandering Life: A Nomadland Review | Culture & Leisure





Frances McDormand in the movie NOMADLAND. Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. 2020 20th Century Studios All rights reserved

Disney’s $ 71 billion Fox asset-buying frenzy didn’t end with Wicked Tuna, Deadpool and other pop culture players to fit into the brand. One of their best acquisitions under the deal was to pick Fox Searchlight Pictures (now without the Fox name), a leading award-winning arthouse film studio.

Their first big effort for the 2020 Gold Plate accreditation comes in the form of Nomadland, a beautiful, meditative work of art that director Chloe Zhao orchestrates by merging the talents of source material, production and acting. unconventional.

Zhao brings the incredible hyper-documentary and cinematic style she showcased in her previous film Rider, with much more refinement and confidence.

Based on and inspired by Jessica Bruders 2017 non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, the story concerns Fern (Frances McDormand), a woman who has fallen through the loss of her husband, followed by the loss of her job, then punctuated by the loss of the community in which she lives. Set in the 2008 or 2009 era of the Great Recession, the corporate city of Empire, Nevada in which she lives, simply ceases to be after the factory where everyone worked.

Without her teaching job, economic resources or housing, she decides to hit the road and live in her van, doing odd jobs in an Amazon fulfillment center, camping and tourist attraction, doing jobs. poorly paid and poorly remunerated. far from ambitious, except in the sense of surviving.

At the start of her journey, she meets other people in a variety of (mostly economic) situations, but with one thing in common: they refuse to settle in the same place and prefer to roam the landscape. The lack of a fixed base gives them some freedom from the pitfalls and pitfalls of the consumer society and, as a side benefit, gives them a new bond with other like-minded people as well as with beauties of the natural world.

This nomadic existence is at the heart of the film and gives Fern a constantly mobile and amorphous community. Fern goes from a menial job to a menial job, but this is compensated by the people she meets who help her fill her void. Often they congregate in certain places, similar to the Burning Man Festival but with more college camaraderie and less Instagram self-aggrandizement.

“Nomadland” ostensibly sounds like a politically charged statement on current economic disparities or a critique of our society’s predilection to get rid of its inhabitants once they have outlived their usefulness. But I found it more moving as a woman’s journey on the road to recovery.

There is an inspiring and engaged acting from McDormand, who is incandescent and low-key in his performance. Moreso, Zhaos’ cast of true nomads in major roles (Linda May, Swankie, nomadic guru Bob Ross), pays extremely well. A few other professional actors round out the cast, including David Straithairn who always brings sympathy to any movie or TV show, but non-pros (including cameos of an actor or two from Rider) are the dramatic leaven of performance. In fact, amateurs may have had some influence on the people of Hollywood in the way they made their acting choices.


Frances McDormand and David Strathairn in the movie NOMADLAND. Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. 2020 20th Century Studios All rights reserved

Cinematographer Joshua James Richards has as much of an affinity for the panoramas of the American West as he does for the prideless close-ups of actors. Nomadland asks to be seen in a theater (damn it, pandemic!). But ironically, due to the lack of movie options and the reluctance of studios to release big movies lately, I think more people will be able to access this movie through Hulu, and possibly video on demand.

And this is a good thing. More people should be treated with the Zhaos view of the human condition.

And move on, more willpower. She wraps up Eternals, an upcoming entry into the Marvel superhero genre, slated for a year-end release. Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek are multiverses aside from Linda May and Swankie, but I feel good that Zhao brings her unique and talented sensibility to it.

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