I’ve been rewatching Reichart’s films and checking out the ones I missed (River of Grass and Night Moves) in prep for this – not only a new Reichardt film but an in-person visit and Q&A in little ol’ Lincoln. Katy liked Certain Women more than she expected to, and between the build-up, the Q&A and after-film discussions, I’ve put much offline energy into this movie, so will keep this post relatively short, leaning on quotes.

Three episodes, based on stories by Colin Meloy’s older sister. Laura Dern is a lawyer representing Jared Harris (I Shot Andy Warhol) who accepted a worker’s comp settlement and now won’t accept that he can’t sue. When he storms a city building and takes a hostage in order to review his file, Laura is sent in to talk him down. Next, Michelle Williams is trying to buy sandstone from elderly Rene Auberjonois (Deep Space Nine), but she and husband James Le Gros are having trouble forming a unified strategy. And third, lonesome rancher Lily Gladstone finds Kristen Stewart teaching night classes and starts attending in order to get closer to her.

Paula Bernstein: “Though the three segments of the film are only peripherally connected, they share the same pensive tone and convey a palpable sense of loneliness.” I thought they were just barely connected (Dern is glimpsed at the end of part three) until Katy pointed out that Dern is sleeping with Williams’s husband in the opening scene.

Alice Gregory:

While a lone man can be a hero — readily and right from the start — a lone woman is cause for concern. Despite their painterly settings and near-silent soundscapes, Reichardt’s films are animated by a sustained unease. The viewer anticipates a threat that could but never quite does progress to a state of emergency … It’s the low-grade but unrelenting sense of hazard that is a woman’s experience of merely moving through the world, an anxiety so quiet and constant it can be confused for nothing more than atmosphere.

D. Kasman:

With the exception of Gladstone’s lone rancher, these certain women are actually doing much better in their lives than Reichardt’s Oregonian outcasts she has so movingly introduced us to in the past, yet they each are united in a common feeling, emotional and existential, of just being on the outside, of being held on the cusp of what would make them happy and fulfilled.

Reichardt’s darkest movie, thematically and visually. Extremist environmentalist Jesse Eisenberg blows up a dam along with Dakota Fanning (providing the funds) and Peter Sarsgaard (handy with explosives), killing a camper with the ensuing flood. Days later, Dakota is freaking out from guilt, so Jesse murders her, then flees into the anonymous suburbs.

A. Stoehr:

They’re young, sensitive, brooding, idealistic — not tortured, exactly, but stung by the feeling that they have to do something and totally destroyed by the something they end up doing.

V. Rizov:

The middle-aged suburban guy selling his fishing vessel couldn’t be more innocuous in his personal manner, but we see his neighborhood through Josh’s angry eyes: the backyard waterfall is a clear misallocation of resources, the golf on TV the final insult … The way Contagion forced viewers to see every surface as a potential viral breeding ground rather than an neutral object, Night Moves makes it easier to view the everyday world’s physical components through perpetually, justifiably aggrieved environmentalist eyes.

Night Moves has a hint of a repeatedly disenchanted activist’s understandable bubbling-under stridency while adding to Reichardt’s gallery of would-be liberal American citizens navigating a hostile landscape already shaped and perhaps permanently ruined by those who came before.

Reichardt:

What should anybody be doing right now? No answer was discovered in the making of the film for that question.

“It’s funny how a single day could drag and drag while entire years just flew by in a flash.”

A couple of near-strangers in the Miami area become accidental fugitives. This fits right in with the 1990’s American indie scene, played Sundance with Clerks and Hoop Dreams and Spanking the Monkey. Then Kelly’s next feature, the very different Old Joy (which I thought was her debut until recently) came twelve years later and River of Grass wouldn’t resurface until a nice restoration this year.

Cozy has a husband and a kid or two, is restless. At a bar she meets Lee (Larry Fessenden), who has just received a gun found by his friend Michael “brother of Steve” Buscemi, which was lost by Cozy’s dad, a detective. They wander the neighborhood and shoot a homeowner who surprises them, then go on the run with no money or plan, never successfully leaving their home county. When Cozy finds out they’re not fugitives after all, having missed the homeowner, she shoots Lee and disappears in his car.

“If we weren’t killers we weren’t anything.”

Detective Dad:

Besides Fessenden, Kelly had worked with Todd Haynes, thanks Ira Sachs in the credits, has a walk-on role for Phil Morrison, and musical participation by Ira Kaplan, Dave Schramm and Amy Rigby – that’s a mighty list of friends and collaborators. Really nice blu-ray, with a commentary where Reichardt and Fessenden lightly mock the film and each other. “Look, another iconic shot. This really defines American cinema.”

Also rewatched Reichardt’s next two features, in prep for Certain Women:


Old Joy (2006)

I didn’t have much to say about this last time, and still don’t. Now I’ve read the Jon Raymond short story, and the movie is a very close adaptation – except for one thing. The book has an aside about a dead deer being loaded into the back seat of a borrowed car, then the deer turning out not to be dead, waking up and destroying the car. I could swear I’ve heard that story before – but where? I still find the movie to be more positive and peaceful than the story would suggest. Seen Daniel London in a couple things since this – notably The Toe Tactic – and I’ve bought a bunch more albums by Bonnie Bill Oldham.

Lucy:


Wendy and Lucy (2008)

I kinda like my writeup from last time. Biggest surprise of the night: Lucy the dog (Palm Dog winner at Cannes) also costars in Old Joy. This movie gives me panic attacks and makes me super sad at the end, and I love it to death. Kelly adds a couple true details that weren’t in the original story, like the police not knowing how their own computer systems work. Security guard Wally Dalton was in The Catechism Cataclysm – funny that I didn’t mention him in my post but I did mention Old Joy.

Like Reichart’s last two movies, this is a bare sketch of a story. The cinematography is better, the film stock is less grainy, and there are more name actors joining Michelle Williams and Will Patton (both returning from Wendy and Lucy), including Paul “There Will Be Blood” Dano and the great Shirley Henderson from Yes.

Eventually the viewer picks up that a small wagon train (three families) is being led by a paid guide named Meek (Bruce Greenwood, guy who hires Kirk in the Star Trek remake), who seems to be lost. Action is shown somewhat from the women’s point of view, so when the men converse, making big decisions that affect our trip, they don’t get to participate much, until the semi-liberated Williams starts butting in. The group’s fresh water supply is running out when they capture an Indian who’s been following them, and the men appoint him their guide instead of Meek. One family’s wagon is destroyed when traversing a hill, and the others pitch in to help, but nobody is ever shot, or even gets sick – unusual for a Western. The Indian leads them to a large tree, someone points out that water must be nearby, he wanders off unchallenged, end of movie.

It’s a weird choice, that ending, so to understand the screenwriting I turned to T. Stempel’s column “Understanding Screenwriting.”

I heard a sound from the audience I can’t recall ever having heard before. They laughed, and they seemed to be laughing at themselves for having been taken in for 100 minutes by a movie that is not even going to bother finish telling the story it started out to tell.

So he doesn’t know either, but it seems to me like a self-consciously indie thing to do, a Cache move, as if the director thinks her film will be less artistic if she gives us too much information. Anyway, Stempel also says “the picture is slow, which makes sense because journeying by covered wagon was slow,” but it’s not as slow as Old Joy. I don’t suppose I’ve fallen in love with any of her three films so far, but I always enjoy the experience enough to turn up for the next one. EDIT: upon reflection, years later, I think about them lots, about their look and their moods, and so I suppose I do love them after all.

Saw Michelle Williams before in Brokeback.
Can’t recall her in Synecdoche or I’m Not There.
Very good performance.

She drives a car, has a dog, rations cash, seeks Alaska.

Car breaks.
Arrested for shoplifting.
Dog disappears.

Pleasant man named Wally played a drugstore security guard.

The movie credits would like to mention Will Patton.
He is the prestige.
Played a mechanic.
Last seen in Road House 2 (ouch)

Larry Fessenden, directed Habit, plays a crazy person.
Apparently he does that a lot.
Cabin Fever Part 2? That won’t be good.
Did anyone know there are two sequels to the Pulse remake?

Movie is well paced, well shot.
Does not make me as sleepy as Old Joy.
A pleasure to watch.

The dog lives.
It’s so cold in Alaska.

A female-directed movie where both the male leads get naked, heh. Of course I saw this cuz Bonnie Will Oldham plays Kurt. Vaguely adrian-brody-like guy named Daniel London plays Mark… was apparently in Minority Report and Patch Adams.

The title comes from the line “sorrow is nothing but worn-out joy”. One of the few lines in a very quiet movie. Peaceful, especially once they get to the hot springs. Supposedly it’s “about” two old friends trying in vain to reconnect their dying friendship. I did not have this feeling of regret and woe hanging over my head, found it to be a profoundly happy movie.