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Violet O, here…
‘Certain Women‘ opened on a very long, mostly silent, incredibly slow scene of a train traveling the countryside. Unfortunately, this proved to be the pace of action and level of excitement throughout the entire 107min film. This movie attempts to tell three completely unrelated stories of three different women (Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Lily Gladstone) living in rural Montana. The only commonality that I could find between these stories is their lack of direction and level of awkwardness.
The first story centers on Laura (Dern), a disheveled lawyer attempting to navigate both a loveless affair with a married man (James Le Gros) and the escalating demands of a mentally unstable client (Jared Harris). After a series of tedious scenes this story culminates with the lamest hostage situation ever filmed, followed by a bizarre prison visitation featuring milkshakes and uneasy flirtation.
In the second story we are introduced to Gina (Williams), an unhappily married closet-smoker in a constant state of disapproval of her husband and teenage daughter. The husband (Le Gros) seems determined to placate her in order to keep some semblance of harmony within the family unit. Gina finds herself obsessed with acquiring the sandstone of an elderly gentlemen (Rene Auberjonois) in the area for use as a building material for their new home. After some tense and manipulative discussions, the approval is given and we are treated to an extended scene of the stones being loaded into the back of a truck. The old man stares out the window with a look of distrust and confusion in his eyes.
The final story in this film centers on Jamie (Gladstone) as a ranch hand desperate for human connection. She stumbles onto a group beginning a class and takes a seat just to be included. When the teacher (Kristen Stewart) arrives, Jamie is immediately fixated on the mysteriously frazzled woman. Their forced interactions include late night dinners at the local diner and a slightly romantic but ultimately fruitless tandem horseback ride.
Overall, the stories and characters fell flat and left me feeling both agitated and disappointed. Lily Gladstone was the only exception with her raw desire and vulnerability in pursuing Stewart. Dern, Williams and Stewart were each acceptably on target, but I feel that if given a more robust storyline each would’ve delivered. Visually the film captured the vast sparseness and unrelenting cold of rural Montana perfectly. I pulled my sweater a little tighter around my shoulders as the film dragged on. The score was almost completely absent and in its place were extended periods of tense silence or the sounds of mundane tasks like brushing a horse’s mane. The appeal of the pace and tension in ‘Certain Women‘ is lost on me.
WAIT FOR NETFLIX!