Thursday, November 17, 2016

Movie Review #520: "Certain Women" (2016)

Movie"Certain Women"
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
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A look into the lives of three women living in Montana who are very loosely connected. 

"Certain Women" is written and directed by Kelly Reichardt. This film is based on a series of short stories by Maile Meloy. It is comprised of three segments, each focusing on a different female protagonist. The first portion is about a lawyer named Laura, played by Laura Dern, who has some trouble with a client named Fuller, played by Jared Harris. Fuller was injured on the job and took a small early settlement that barely covered his mortgage payment. Because of this, Laura is hounded by him on an almost daily basis as he demands she do more for him to get him more money, even when there may not be any more legal recourse for his case. The second segment is about a woman named Gina, played Michelle Williams, whose husband Ryan, played James Le Gros, is building her a secluded vacation-type house from the ground up. Gina is trying to acquire a pile of native sandstone blocks from an older man named Albert, played by Rene Auberjonois, who appears to be a friend of theirs. Gina is not above exploiting Albert to get these stones and is very phony in her mannerisms when trying to obtain them. Her husband Ryan has also had an affair with Laura. This subplot is never a focus of the film, it's just the way the two stories are connected and it ends as soon as it begins. Finally, the last segment is about a ranch hand, played by Lily Gladstone, who becomes a bit infatuated with a teacher/lawyer named Elizabeth Travis, played by Kristen Stewart, who drives 4 hours to teach her class only to turn around and drive 4 hours back before going to her next job.

We are just going to say this right off the bat. "Certain Women" is mind-numbingly dull. Some viewers will enjoy the artistically elongated length and the simple but nuanced story that affects these three women, but to us, it is nothing more than a tedious, lackluster bore. The main content of the movie consists of these characters quietly walking from one place to another, as well as long shots of their faces as they pensively stare off into the distance or look at some random object for far too long.
Everything in these stories is banal and trite. The only piece of this indie puzzle that comes remotely close to being interesting is the portion with Laura, and that's because her client goes off the deep end at one point, and because Laura Dern is everything.

This is the type of film that's designed with critics in mind. Just because a couple of decent, in this case excellent, actors are gathered together by a production team with a director who obviously has a Master's degree in lingering expansive shots of the Montana countryside, they think we will mistake it for quality. In fact, we can take a direct quote from our "Night Moves" review from 2014, which is also directed by Reichardt, and use it here with perfect application: "In our opinion, a filmmaker's main goal should be to entertain and enthrall audiences, not to solely please critics, and in that aspect, this movie fails." We appreciate stories that take their time to unravel, movies made for the sake of artistic integrity, but the cardinal sin of film making is producing something insipid and tired, which most certainly fits in this case. No amount of talented actors with understated, subtle performances, and no amount of gorgeous cinematography of snowy hills and mountainous landscapes will change that.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 3.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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