Nomadland ★★

In some ways Nomadland is the opposite of The Rider even though they operate in similar registers. That movie was at its strongest in the more documentary aspects and focused on the main character task oriented existence and struggled every time it had to generate drama and move close to Hollywood fiction. Nomadland only works when it is offering McDormand a semblance of writing drama to bounce off, her very fine scenes with Strathairn, some of the undercooked material about her struggles with the idea of returning to a non nomad life and specially whatever the movie approaches aging. On those moments when we see Frances Macdormand, famous and very talented Hollywood actress at work instead of pantoming poverty the movie finds some breathing room. A few of the semi documentary scenes with the people she meets have an impact, but the attempt to return to this semi anthropological approach fails much because McDormand interactions with them always remain off (one guess: if one replaces Jandreau with Chris Evans, The Rider would be unwatchable junk) . The material about labor and poverty never works. At its very worst during its first half hour Nomadland flirts with being the movie McCrea wants to make in Sullivan's Travels. The attempts of simply step back are underserved by the mythologizing (the cinematography and score are awful throughout), the attempts of careful ground McDormand's existence into observed and well researched moments drowning on the movie big picture pull. Nomadland is what happens when the disappearance of working life on US hitherlands is treated as a big theme to wax about instead of as an actual agonizing fact of our current capítalist hellife (when labor and poverty are abstracted subject matters one reads about). The open road as a large pull works on occasion through the movie, but it never manages to allow it to exist outside of this very idealized image that its naturalist aspect are supposedly trying to tone down. Much like The Ride it is a movie in war with itself its Hollywood pap parts win easily for both good and worse.

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