R | 1h 47min | Drama
Review - Matt Mungle
*In theaters *
Synopsis: The lives of three women intersect in small-town America, where each is imperfectly blazing a trail.
Review: There should be a golden rule in Hollywood that no matter how fantastic your movie looks it must must must have an engaging story or at least invested characters . CERTAIN WOMEN is a how-to of framing and capture but nothing else. Possibly the thinnest and most pointless script this year.
The movie boasts of these three intersecting tales of American women blazing a trail. There is no trail blazing going on here and the women seem more on the verge of immobility. The only weaving of story lines and characters are random people who scene drop one or twice. The individual stories are invisible tapestries of awkward silence and beat down personalities. These are women who seem ready to throw in the towel and are no where near the point of forging new fires.
In act one we meet attorney Laura Wells (Laura Dern) who has a difficult client (Jared Harris) she can't convince to move on. I assume her "women" is the one whose voice is lost in a male dominant vocation. Maybe. Not really sure since the story gives us nothing about her to build on. She mopes from scene to scene until an anti climactic moment ends her part of the story.
We then move on to a husband (James Le Gros) and wife (Michelle Williams) who may or may not be having marital problems. They may or may not be commune gypsies. They may or may not even be human. No one really knows. We watch them argue then try and negotiate a deal for sandstone from some random guy. The movie makes you think he is significant but if he is we never know why. This story is connected to the first one in a brief scene between the husband and Laura Wells. It could be pivotal but is never revisited.
The final (thank god) story has even less impact than the first two. It is about a young law student (Kristen Stewart) who takes a job in a small town teaching a class. She misunderstood what town the class was in before accepting the job only to find out it was a four hour drive each way. She is befriended by one of the students (Lily Gladstone) who only showed up because she saw people going in the building, and they have some awkward meals together.
Director Kelly Reichardt is fantastic and framing shots and capturing small town America through a camera lens. I applaud her sense of vision and eye for realness. But the script she wrote is so bad that you don't even care about the visuals. It really is mess of nothing.
What is worse is the caliber of female actors she had to work with. These women are tops in their field. And in a movie about trail blazing women it should have been ground breaking earth shattering performances. But instead it is an embarrassing waste of ability and talent. All because they were given nothing to work with. In fact the best performance and the one with any sort of depth or feeling is that of Gladstone. She is the only one you will engage with or feel for at all.
CERTAIN WOMEN is rated R for some language. It truly is a boring snooze-fest. I give it 1 out of 5 milkshakes. I have not been so underwhelmed by potential in many a year. American women deserved better.