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Golden Globes nominee profile: Frances McDormand (‘Nomadland’) looking for bookend to ‘Three Billboards’ trophy

Frances McDormand has always carved out her own path, not unlike her character, Fern, in “Nomadland.” Fern is just the latest of her roles that few other mainstream actors could play and it earned her a seventh Golden Globe bid. “Nomadland” is far and away the leader in Best Picture wins from critics’ groups and McDormand has won over a dozen Best Actress prizes. All this love could result in McDormand winning her second Golden Globe (and her third Oscar).

McDormand’s competition in Best Drama Actress at the Golden Globes is Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”), Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) and Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”). Davis is the only other actress who comes close to McDormand’s success at the Globes, with five previous bids. Mulligan was nominated for “An Education,” Day has a concurrent nomination this year in Best Original Song and Kirby earned her first recognition this year.

McDormand has a long history with the Golden Globes, dating all the way back to 1994 when she shared in a special ensemble award for “Short Cuts.” She reaped bids for “Fargo” in 1997, “Almost Famous” in 2001, “North Country” in 2006, “Burn After Reading” in 2009, “Olive Kitteridge” in 2015 and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” in 2018. She had to wait until “Three Billboards” to finally win.

SEE 2021 Golden Globes nominations list: Nominees for 78th annual ceremony

“Nomadland” finds McDormand blending in seamlessly with non-professional actors. Fern has taken on a nomadic lifestyle following the recent death of her husband. Many scenes feature Fern listening to the stories of the people she meets along the way, many of them real-life nomads. Without saying a word, McDormand communicates so much about Fern’s personality as a humble, independent woman who cares about the people around her. The actress is also up to the task of handling the film’s dramatic narrative as we see Fern unable to get past the loss of her husband and taking responsibility when family members ask why she abandoned them.

An understated film like “Nomadland” isn’t typically in the wheelhouse of the Golden Globes voters, who typically go for big, splashy films with showy direction. But this Searchlight Pictures release also contends for Best Drama, Best Director for Chloé Zhao and Best Screenplay, also for Zhao. This strong showing is a testament to “Nomadland’s” quiet power, but also to McDormand’s unique magnetism as a performer. Like Fern taking in a fellow nomad’s story, voters simply cannot look away.

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “Golden Globes nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2021 contenders in film and TV.

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