There’s always something nice to be found when a bigger actor or actress continues to come back and work with the more independently minded filmmakers that helped launch them. In the case of Michelle Williams, she continually teams back up with writer/director Kelly Reichardt, with their latest collaboration being the drama Certain Women, which opens this week. They also bring on other strong actresses, though this time they have one of their best yet in Kristen Stewart, who is just terrific here, along with Laura Dern. Reichardt is a bit of an acquired taste for sure, and this is possibly one of her slowest films yet, but the acting is unimpeachable.
The movie is a look at a quartet of women in a small Montana town and how their lives intersect in small ways, spread out over three segments. One concerns Laura Wells (Dern), a lawyer dealing with a disgruntled client Fuller (Jared Harris) who eventually ends up in a hostage situation. Another centers on Gina Lewis (Williams) and her husband Ryan (James Le Gros) as they break ground on a new house. Their union is stressed as they work convince an old man to make a sale to them of a sandstone stockpile. The third segment brings together ranch hand Jamie (Lily Gladstone) and young lawyer Beth Travis (Stewart), as the former becomes attached to the latter while sitting in on her adult education class. Reichardt directs and writes the adaptation of some short stories by Maile Meloy. Also in the cast are Rene Auberjonois, John Getz, James Jordan, Edelen McWilliams, and more. Christopher Blauvelt provides the cinematography here, which does capture rural America quite well.
I’m not wild about this flick, but I do really like the acting on display. Gladstone might actually be best in show, while Dern, Stewart, and Williams are excellent. The combination of Gladstone and Stewart makes for the best segment, while the other two are far more flawed. The first one, with Dern and Harris, is fine, but Williams’ one is pretty rough, sadly. The actresses do what they can with the material, but Reichardt meanders far more than she usually does. It’s clearly one of her lesser works overall, even if there’s a ton of good acting to be found within. The established stars do the consistently good work you expect, while Gladstone is quite the discovery.
Awards wise, this feels like an independent player […]