Don’t get me wrong; this is a fine movie. Frances McDormand is amazing, as she always is, and the story is very compelling. But here’s the thing with “Nomandland”: the characters in Fern’s life are based on their real-life selves. Linda May is Linda May. Swankie is Swankie. Bob Wells is Bob Wells. They’re all playing fictional versions of themselves. This is not a spoiler either; they are listed as such on IMDb and it’s in the Wikipedia summary of the film. So, if you consider that a spoiler, sorry not sorry. Facts aren’t spoilers.
Why the fiction?
As I said, the movie is good. It’s a nice, eye-opening story about the state of our country. But by placing a well-known (to me, at least), it creates a disconnect while watching the film. It’s not irregular to cast locals or “regular” people in your film to add authenticity, but these are not actors she interacts with and (according to online literature) many of them did not know she was famous. Call it method acting, call it cultural unawareness (they do live nomadic lives, so why would they?), but it was distracting to know she was acting and that they (mostly) weren’t.
Sure looks appealing. For a minute
So much of the nomadic lifestyle is very appealing: seeing the countryside, traveling from place to place, meeting new and interesting people, working odd jobs to get by. But man, so much of it does not appeal to me. Like shitting in a bucket inside your bedroom/kitchen/car. Or nearly freezing to death rather than sleeping in a church or shelter. Or never really knowing if and when you’ll eat next. No thanks; I’ll keep working my temp job and getting a weekly paycheck (for now).
Worth the watch, but not a “fun” watch
All this is to say please watch this film. It is important and very well-made. And her performance is fantastic. But it is a bummer movie. But find me an awards-nominee that isn’t.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Lincoln L. Hayes is an actor and writer in NYC. His web series/podcast SESSION ZERO is wrapping up with an all-female panel talking everything D&D this Friday, 3/12/21. The finale is next Friday with an all LGBTQ+ panel discussing their experiences with TTRPGs. Find more at www.lincolnlhayes.com/sessionzero