fasdsr2 (gumby) wrote in ohnotheydidnt,

"Nomadland" waters down the book it's based on, according to a new review

A new review from Vulture looks at what the film (which is currently out on Hulu) gets wrong about gig workers.

Some key highlights and quotes behind the cut:

-Some of the film takes place in an Amazon warehouse, but the film has no real critique of it. There are scenes where Fern (played by Frances McDormand) smiles at co-workers or tells old friends that the money is "great" when asked how it's like working there — and that's the extent of it, writes Wilfred Chan.

-In contrast, the book itself includes workers who had experienced dizziness during their shifts and had been knocked down by items that flew off the conveyor belts. It also includes harrowing stories of workers injured on the job at other places.

-Journalist Jessica Bruder, who wrote "Nomadland," illustrates that these working accidents are the "logical outcomes of an economic system that takes advantage of the country's most vulnerable."

-"Because the film is primarily a character study of [Fern], it exchanges Bruder’s sharp indignation over capitalist exploitation for a muddled message about individual freedom that downplays the real stakes of gig labor."

-Chan points out that Amazon bosses have only continued to amass wealth during this pandemic as their workers are exposed to a deadly virus.

Have you seen it yet? Thoughts?


Tags: amazon, film, film - drama

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didn’t know about it being based off a book so i just took the movie for what it is and it broke my heart. swankie’s speech killed me and frances did a wonderful job as fern. definitely a good quiet & introspective movie
I was expecting a movie that celebrated "being alone and free" in a simplistic way, but it was quite bittersweet. In the end I wasn't even sure she was happy doing what she did, or just running away from her problems and real connections... or both lol
yeah, that was one of the things about it i found most moving and effective - that tension between the way she did value her particular life and the unique community/experiences it afforded her, while also making it clear that it isn't necessarily a choice she has the means to willingly make. the film did a great job, imo, of representing the complexities of that without inviting the viewer to condescendingly pity the characters onscreen or anything like that.
I think these are all valid points. But at the same time, I think the film did a decent job of showing you that working there is shitty and temporary in a way that leaves those workers vulnerable without explicitly saying “Amazon sucks”. I certainly didn’t walk away from it thinking that Amazon is great for hiring seasonal workers and then throwing them out like trash when Christmas is over.


February 23 2021, 07:04:50 UTC 9 months ago Edited:  February 23 2021, 07:05:26 UTC

I didn't know it was based off a book and certainly hadn't read in any of the other reviews just how much it watered down Amazon's horrible practices.

It's quite disappointing, but since I learned a few days ago that Chloe Zhao comes from money... um idk, like her whole career, using the real life stories of disadvantaged people, especially in the case of gig workers like those in Nomadland, there's something that feels wrong.

Like there's this rich woman who studied in the best schools in the world with no problem at all, who has probably never struggled for money, and she takes these stories and turns them into films, but then (in this case particularly) doesn't tell the real story, doesn't show how they're really suffering. It feels a tad bit opportunistic and like her privilege didn't allow her (nor Frances McDormand) to completely see and understand the harsh reality these people live in.
this is where I'm at — I really liked her first two films. But since finding out (thanks to someone on ONTD) that she comes from so much wealth and privilege, I would be remiss not to critically re-examine her work...it's all making me not want to watch Nomadland. :[
It feels very... Voyeuristic to me? Exploitative? Awards-bait-y? All of the above, I guess? I really don't like it. I haven't researched the background of every director whose movies I watch but every time I find out something about a director, it's that they're ultra privleged. "Starting from the bottom" doesn't exist.


9 months ago


9 months ago

Oh, hrm.
Didn't she get cut off after her father cheated on her mother with another woman? She got to finish film school but basically had to live on a shoestring after that, iirc.


9 months ago

I don’t have a problem with her first two films because even though she went into poor communities she didn’t belong to to make the movies, the filmmaking process, from what I read in interviews/articles, sounded like it was a collaborative process and she let them tell their stories instead of forcing them to tell the stories she had in mind from the start. I guess ultimately, I would want to know how the people who appeared in her first two films were compensated to be able to say whether it was exploitative or not.

I have a much bigger problem with Nomadland because putting Frances McDormand, an extremely wealthy actress Acting using techniques she learned in drama school, next to real people telling their real stories of suffering, just underscores how exploitative the entire concept of the movie is. Given that Nomadland probably made much, much more money than her first two films, I would also want to see all of the real people in the movie compensated handsomely. And at the end of the day Frances McDormand goes home with more awards and awards nominations and all of the acclaim and ultimately the increased money that comes with that, and everyone else goes home with what?!!! They should’ve made a documentary, or they should’ve made a fictional movie with Frances McDormand, but mixing the two made for such an exploitative movie.
Today, in our staff meeting, my coworker said it "made me want to lie down in the middle of traffic and kill myself."

I felt that.


February 23 2021, 08:21:48 UTC 9 months ago Edited:  February 23 2021, 08:22:40 UTC

I haven’t seen it yet but the number of gig workers killed or injured on the job is sickening. I know there have been some recent law changes in California, and court wins for workers in countries outside the US, but I wish governments were more pro than reactive when it comes to social and economic changes like this.
I think it would have been important to have a film like this to delve into the shittiness of Amazon since that's what's included in the book. I've never worked there myself but the countless stories I've read about workers who've struggled with their health there and to even get a day off sick, it makes me disgusted. Especially as it's run by Earth's real life hideous Lex Luthor (even that's being nice)
Bezos being compared to LL is spot on.
Frances wrote to Amazon and convinced them to let them film in one of their warehouses so I’m guessing that had a lot of impact on how critical they were able to be.
Yeah, but that makes it feel worse. Maybe not just include this? ?r make the whole plotline more generic? Everyhing's bettter than whitewashing a cause of poverty when you're portraying it.
Yeah, idk why they wouldn't just change the name, everyone would know what company it was supposed to be.
Really glad to see thoughtful critical responses to the film get a platform, but I kinda disagree that it didn't critique amazon? Maybe it was just my own priors but I thought it/the gig economy were portrayed in a very negative light (though the film did make an effort to show warmth and comradery from the workers). I think the mixing of Frances Mcdormand, two time oscar winning wealthy actress, with people actually going through these experiences introduces a tension I'll continue to think about and appreciate reading about. In some ways it seems to break down traditional hierarchies, ownership and boundaries in film-making, but then it introduces new issues and imbalances.

On an adjacent note because it seems to be (understandably) coloring people's perceptions of the film, Chloe Zhao completely denied the billionaire dad rumor in an interview with The Playlist recently. No clue if her family are actually well off but she joked about wishing she did have family who could pay off her student loans.
Yuji Zhao is a venture partner of Bohai Harvest RST Shanghai Equity Investment Fund Management Co Ltd.

BHR was established specifically for the purpose of capital injection into Sinopec Marketing Co., in accordance with the laws of the PRC. Its registered address is China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone and principal place of business at Unit 3101, 31/F, Tower 2, China Central Place, 79 Jianguo Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing."[1]

BHR was one of twenty-five investors to take part in the capital injection of Sinopec Marketing Co. and their investment of approximately (US)$1,700,000,000 dollars was the 7th largest of the group, giving them a 1.68% shareholding interest out of an available 29.99%. As part of the approved agreement, Sinopec retained 70.01%

The U.S. partners as a pair and the two Chinese partners each own a 30% stake in the joint management firm.[..]In November, 2016, BHR agreed to purchase Lundin Mining Corp's minority stake in African copper mine Tenke Fungurume Mining S.A. for $1.14 billion in cash.

So the venture partner of a company who can pay a cool billion for a mine in cash can't afford to pay off his daughter's students loans?

Hmmm...Her lying about it is definitely more annoying than just it being true. Does she think people can't google her dad's name or...?
Very possible he's rich and just doesn't want to support her any more financially, but the billionaire with a B rumor people have latched on to seems to be the result of a racist google/wikipedia mixup with a whole other guy, which seems more plausible to me than "she's just a brazen liar about extremely verifiable information".


9 months ago


9 months ago

They probably cut it out because there's no way Amazon wouldn't try and fight against a potentially award winning movie criticizing them. I'm not going to blame the producers or the director or whoever made this decision for not wanting to try and do it in this situation, but it's important to realize how much power Amazon has.
Yeah, Amazon is terrible. Case in point: https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/17/22287191/amazon-alabama-warehouse-union-traffic-light-change-bessemer

At the same time, their web services host most of the interet (including probably this site.) So it's virtually impossible not to support them in way or another.
True, but there is also a difference between using them because of having no choice or not even knowing you're using them, and just using them for the sheer convenience.

(I realize it's not a popular opinion here, or anywhere.)
hmm, that's a very fair take, though i understand why that particular choice was made - it was clear, imo, that amazon was being critiqued, and i think making that critique any more explicit would maybe run the risk of feeling a little...on the nose? but subtlety is lost on a lot of film viewers, especially ones who don't already have frameworks in place to condemn amazon's abusive workplace structures, so i do get it. just weaving in the exhaustion & physical dangers into some of the conversations with the workers could have achieved that element of the book without having to spend a whole lot of time actually showing it.

i wasn't immediately obsessed with the larger movie but i did appreciate it & its commitment to telling a story i'd never really seen represented onscreen before. will be happy to see it get a lot of awards shine!
I watched it a few months ago and while I did like it, I did feel it lacking in something. Perhaps the article is it - I felt it was trying to tell a bigger story that I wasn't quite getting the entire feel of. Similar to some of the shots - they would set up these beautiful sweeping shots of the landscape and then cut it short. I felt they didn't let it breathe enough.
I did like the movie, but it did fell a little flat for me. I wish the movie had a point of view from a sociologists, economists, and psychologists, and not only "the soul of America". The movie felt a little redundant(?)

that sounds like a lot to pack into a movie though
I thought it was a beautiful film
Valid criticism, interesting timing too.

Is netflix still paying some of Harvey Weinstein's former employees for their award season campaigns? The timing of this review reminds of the Weinstein method when one of his films was not the frontrunner
I’m not sure about any connection between Netflix and Harvey Weinstein but I do think that at this point everyone copies his techniques for getting awards :/

That being said, I do remember seeing months ago speculation that the distributor of this film (I don’t think it’s Netflix but I can’t remember who?) was waiting to release this film wide for as long as possible to avoid this Amazon backlash that people were predicting was going to happen.


February 23 2021, 14:28:25 UTC 9 months ago Edited:  February 23 2021, 14:36:27 UTC

Of course it does. Does anyone really think that the richest and most powerful man in the entire world is going to allow a movie to be released that approaches anything more than superficial criticism about his company?
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