In the middle of watching ‘Certain Women,” i became a little frustrated. I thought it was very slow, and I felt that more often than not, it seemed to be going nowhere. But what challenges sometimes brings large rewards, and now, hours after finishing the movie, I am still thinking about the film and its characters. Written and Directed by Kelly Reinhardt the movie is based upon three (thinly interrelated) short stories by Maile Meloy, and the film reads so much like short stories you can practically see the pages unfold you on screen.
The first part is about Laura Wells (Laura Dern) a lawyer with a troublesome client. He is embroiled on a workers compensation case but the case itself is as troublesome, and the story has specific consequences. It explores her relationship with her client, and touches upon prejudice against female lawyers. I thought this was the weakest of the episodes – the characters just didn’t interest me enough.
The middle part centers around Gina Lewis, played by Michele Williams, and this is the most subtle episode. Gina is not getting along with both husband and daughter, and the camping trip they are on is showing these strains. On the way home, they chance upon a pile of rocks that sh thinks would be perfect for the house she will be building. So, with her husband, they speak to the owner of the house and try to buy these rocks. The owner seems hesitant at first, but acquiesces. There are a couple of things at play here – is Gina a bitch who always wants to have his way (her husband is having an affair) and does she take advantage of the man, who had old plans for these rocks. WIlliams is great here, ad is able to fill the spaces between lines.
The last part is the best. Kristen Stewart plays Beth, a teacher who travels a long way to teach a class, and one of her students (Lily Gladstone) gets infatuated with her. Gladstone is perfection (and just won a Best Supporting Actress nod from the Los Angeles Critics Association for this performance) as she shows the quiet desperation of someone in love, and the ‘pretty follies’ a woman in love does. Stewart is terrific as well – befuddled, flattered – and even her ever present perma-scowl doesn’t show as much here. It’s Gladstone’s character that resonated with me most, because she represents a true honest face of unrequited love, something we all have experienced in some parts of our lives. (And I bet this film becomes an instant cult classic)
I am seeing this film show up in a lot of critics’ best of lists, and I think it deserves to be.