“CERTAIN WOMEN” My rating: B-
107 minutes | MPAA rating: R
The cinematic minimalism practiced by writer/director Kelly Reichardt can be deceiving. Films like “Old Joy” and “Wendy and Lucy” creep up on you slowly…sometimes a bit of time has to pass before they set up shop inside a viewer’s head and a movie’s little moments coalesce into an overall feeling.
“Certain Women” is based on three Maile Meloy short stories, all set in a small burg in the Pacific Northwest and each concentrating on a woman struggling for a degree of independence and recognition. The stories stand alone, but characters from one might pop up in a cameo role in another.
In the first a lawyer (Laura Dern) is called to help negotiate with a client (Jared Harris) whose workman’s compensation case is going nowhere. Now the poor schlub has taken extreme measures. He’s armed himself and invaded the offices of his former employer, taking a security guard hostage. The local sheriff wants the lawyer to get him to surrender.
In the second story a wife and mother (Michelle Williams) is pushing her foot-dragging husband (James Le Gros) to build a new family home on a few acres out in the woods. Much of the running time is devoted to her negotiations with a crusty old local (Rene Auberjonois) to acquire a pile of sandst0ne rocks that have been sitting in his rural front yard for at least 50 years.
In the third episode a loner stablehand (Lily Gladstone) becomes quietly obsessed with the new law school grad (Kristen Stewart) who weekly drives four hours each way to hold evening training sessions on education law for local public school teachers and administrators.