Itinerant Review: Francis McDormand and Chloe Zhao are a magical combo

The director of “The Rider” studied a powerful character about a woman’s desire to resist settling down.

“Nomadland” is the kind of film that can go terribly wrong. With a real-life nomad with Frances MacDormand as his artist, in low hands it may look like inexpensive wish fulfillment or be based on its most grateful performance. Instead, director Chloe Zhao works magic with McDormand’s face and the real world around him, which has a profound effect on the impulse to leave dust in society.

Zhao previously directed the play “The Rider” and “Songs My Brother Teach Me Me,” which reflect marginalized experiences with indigenous non-actors in South Dakota. “Nomadland” imports that natural scenery fixed with very large tapestries and a different side of American life. Inspired by Jessica Bruder’s non-fictional book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century”, the film follows McDormand as Fern, a soft-spoken widow in the early ’60s who was on the road in her van Hits, and the bus keeps moving. The film hovers with her, many times in her travels it seems that it practically becomes a documentary.

Set in 2011, “Nomadland” opens with Fern, leaving Nevus’ ghost town, Nev. A sheet plant later closes the city and the zip code closes. First, she enrolls in the Amazon Camperforce program designed to tap RV-based retirees for work. (McDormand actually worked at an Amazon factory for these scenes and they share DNA with Brett Story’s documentary short “Camperforce”, which focuses on an elderly couple who settle into the program.) When the paycheck cannot sustain the fern, it injures itself. Deep in the complex ecosystem of life on the road.

The film’s fascinating centerpiece features a real gathering of RV residents, known as the rubber tramp rendezvous, overseen by nomadic guru Bob Wells (who plays himself). In short, Fern is watching an “early nomadic” video on YouTube and listening to proto-socialist lectures about the “tyranny of the dollar” along with other 60-plus pariahs to adopt their liberal routine.

The Golden Desert revolves around them from every direction, but “Nomadland” does not pretend that Fern has gone on a mysterious journey to Burn Man. Life is hard on the move, and Zhao reveals some of the most obscure details on that front: fern pieces on the side of the road, flows into a bucket, and a point is stuck with a flat. She is engaged in a delicate dance with pressure to stabilize her life – lost in the sea and greedy for a paddle, but always resists the impulse to paddle from the shore.

McDormand, in addition to the foul-mouth avenger of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, transforms Fernad into a reluctant adventurer, from a burst of despair to his suicide, as his journeys continue that vogue. Is a symbol of A former English teacher who jumps into one of her older students on the street (the child’s mother asks, “Still that van is working?”), Fern has a strong grasp of the literary dimension to her struggle, And this is all the necessary information. Understand romanticism. He pursues against strict odds. His face tells the story so well that he has little to explain by the time he goes to visit relatives who fill in the details of his backstory.

In RTR, Fern collides with Dave (David Strathiran, the film’s only other professional actor), whose appearance threatens to derail “The Nomad” with a lousy meet-cute twist. A divorced father runs away from his family for other reasons, Dave embodies a variety of clichés – but Fern’s path of disinterest in his advancement. As the film allows her to keep him at bay, their relationship does not hijack the story. Dave arrives and departs from Fern’s life, giving him just a chance to understand why he took it in the past.

“Nomadland” boasts a complex tone: it celebrates vast scenes of a forgotten America, while acknowledging the sensible fiefdom of those wandering through it. Ludovico Einaudi’s litigant score as cinematographer Joshua James Richards sweeps in and out, expanding ferns through exterior scenes, as nothingness is based on poetry. It may sink into the hackneyed concept of life as a journey more than a destination, but Zhao’s understandable screenplay (which turns on the passing observations of real nomadic ferns) pressures for heavy-handed revelations. Faces.

Instead, the film often functions as a non-narrative character study, and many of its more textured moments may serve as just the setting of a multiscreen museum. Fear not: “Nomadland” is still an actual film, with a powerful outburst of anger and grief as Fern becomes frustrated with his limited choices and comes close to reaping the generosity around him. Although Terrence Malick’s sentiment is prominent in Zhao’s lyrical style, “Nomadland” also calls for Ken Loach’s kitchen-sink realism to take into account his depiction of low-grade angst clattering against capitalism’s ambition. , Daniel Blake ”), not to mention Kelly Reichert’s Lonefors (imagining Michelle Williams wanderer from Wendy and Lucy), all grown up and still have no place to go.

Above all, it shows that Zhao (who somehow made the upcoming Marvel movie “Eternals” after this shooting) ignored it, ignoring mainstream concepts of the American dream. While Fern carries every scene, Zhao often allows his unconventional supporting cast to take over. In RTR, Fern Bonds with an elderly woman (Charlene Swanky, a total find) who presents a remarkable monologue about her own mortality is so startling in its details that it turns into a short film on its own terms goes.

“Nomadland” reimagines the nomadic universe, emphasizing the contrast between gaining freedom from society while feeling at the same time. Ultimately, Zhao’s screenplay does not repeat Fern’s choice: the film churns through a familiar saga of a woman who is exhausted from her surroundings, but removes the pressure to conform to the traditional beats of that plight.

Fern’s story appears in small doses, never getting into the same dilemma as Fern can only be troubled by it for so long before it is ready to move on. At one point, Wells tells Fern that he never says goodbye to his nomadic peers, only to “see you down the road”. No one will be waiting for a big moment, no one will get here: As Fern drives, the film presents that line as a mission statement.

grade A-

“Nomadland” premiered at the 2020 Venice Film Festival. Searchlight released theatrically on Friday, December 4.

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