Today is a pretty big day for Hulu and Searchlight Pictures, as the debut of director Chloe Zhao’s awards season hopeful Nomadland sees the film hitting theaters and streaming simultaneously. The heartfelt neo-western epic starring Academy Award winner Frances McDormand has been racking up recognition for some time, and now the reviews are in for public consumption. The result is nothing short of epic, with resounding praise, and a couple of negative reactions, making up the movies’ current critical consensus.
Our own Eric Eisenberg starts us off with the official CinemaBlend review, and he gave Nomadland an impressive 4.5 out of 5. In particular, he latched onto a common thread that runs through a lot of the film’s rave reviews, which happens to be Frances McDormand’s performance as the central character, Fern.
McDormand keeps real pain behind Fern’s eyes, but also imbues with her a tough-as-nails spirit that comes through not only in her desire to restart her life, but also her everlasting kindness.
Recently nominated for a Golden Globe thanks to her work in Nomadland, Frances McDormand looks like she might be on track for a sixth Academy Award nomination in the near future. And if this tide of praise keeps up, she could be a prime candidate for her third Best Actress win, after bringing home such honors for 1997’s Fargo, and most recently for 2018’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Lindsay Baher from The AP helps fuel these hopes, as her reaction also highlights McDormand’s work as follows:
McDormand disappears into Fern, which is no small accomplishment for an actor as recognizable as she is.
Sitting at a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing, there’s naturally going to be some critics that aren’t taken by Nomadland’s charms. Charles Koplinski, one half of Reel Talk with Chuck and Pam’s reviewing team, sees the right approach in Chloe Zhao’s approach to the film, but feels a little disconnected from the finished product. The result is a mixed to negative review that includes this:
To be sure, there is a nobility to Nomadland, yet Zhao's film seems burdened by it. … there’s something about the film that lacks engagement, a distance that Zhao only bridges occasionally.
Richard von Busack with SF Weekly was another critic that saw Nomadland as a miss. However, his reasons play to a very specific set of criticism that any film based off a novel finds itself subject to: faithfulness to the text. As a reader of author Jessica Bruder’s original narrative, von Busack had this to say about its cinematic incarnation:
The film vibrates with moral seriousness, but it misses all the best qualities of the book, where one learned about the ingenuity of the houseless as much as their plight.
If you’re an audience member that’s looking for a short but sweet version of why you really should see Nomadland, The AV Club’s Katie Rife has you covered. Our last reaction comes from her A- rated review, where she gives the movie an accurate summation in what it’s trying to do, and where its heart lies:
What results is a nuanced portrait of free spirits who reject a culture that has rejected them.
Nomadland is set to impress audiences as it has critics and awards voters, thanks to its large debut into the world. Be sure to check your local showtimes if you’re looking for a theatrical experience, but don’t forget that this film is also to stream at this very moment. Either way, be sure to have tissues on hand, as Nomadland is definitely a bit of a tearjerker.