I Got it at the Library: “Certain Women”

Certain - Kelly
Film-maker/Professor Kelly Reichardt

Kelly Reichardt refuses to be rushed.

But you already know that if you have seen Wendy and Lucy and Meek’s Cut-Off. If you are a newcomer to her highly personal and (some might say) idiosyncratic art Certain Women may not be the best introduction. See the two films above first and then see Certain Women and you should feel right at home.

You may have read about the slow food movement. Well, Reichardt’s films are what has been called “slow cinema”. And she determines the pace. (She has edited, written and directed all of the films listed above.)

Certain - Maile

Based on a series of short stories by Montana author Maile Meloy (sister of Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, by the way) Certain Women offers low key character studies of  four women (Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern and Lily Gladstone), their humdrum existences,  frustrations and small victories. 

Reichardt’s films, like the slow food movement perhaps, are an acquired taste. The film recived a 92% per cent critical approval on the rottentomatoes.com site but fared less successfully among the audience reviewers (RT Audience Critic Phillip Price wrote in part “…  There is a fine line between being understated and simply being uninteresting …. “

But as Ms. Reichardt told Nigel Smith of “theguardian.com”‘:  “It all just seems everything is getting faster. Faster, faster, faster – we all want things faster. I guess there is a part of me that likes the pull against that … 

Certain - poster



“Youth” and Aging and Paolo Sorrentino

Youth is an English language film by Oscar winning Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty).

The film is a somber meditation on, yes, youth and old age and all the choices we make in between.  Signor Sorrentino’s screenplay also has moments of humor. In fact, I found the comic relief refreshing in a film that often makes for unsettling viewing for a person of my age group and background.

Veteran actress Rachel Weisz in Youth looking simply stunning in an old school one piece bathing suit

Youth boasts heartfelt performances from an excellent cast toplined by Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano and the indomitable Jane Fonda. (Ms. Fonda received a Golden Globe nomination  in the supporting actress category for her role as a fading but still potent screen actress. It is only a brief cameo but Ms. Fonda breathes real fire into it. I sense she has invested her character with her own experience surviving in the showbiz jungle.)

The film opened to mixed reviews. (Entertainment Weekly called it “hit-and miss. Beautiful but frustrating.) A number of critics mentioned Signor Sorrentino’s obvious indebtedness to fellow Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini. (” … sub-Fellini touch feels indulgent and sugary” to quote Peter Bradshaw of U.K.’s theguardian.com) Actually, I welcomed Signor Sorrentino’s Fellinesque touches. (Two of my all-time film favorites are  8 1\2 and Amarcord.) I much prefer James Bernardelli who, in Reel Views, writes that ” Watching Youth, you’d swear Fellini had risen from his grave and returned to make another movie.” There are some amazing images here (and I’m not just referring to a totally nude Miss Universe, portrayed by Romanian model Madalina Ghenea, wading into the pool under the startled gaze of Messrs. Caine and Keitel.


Brad Wheeler in a generally favorable review of the film in Canada’s Globe and Mail writes  “Some of the dialogue is overstuffed and pretentious, written as if meant to be carved into stone.” Frankly, I thought the dialogue was wise (and, at times, humorous) and hit the mark (with me, at least).

In a previous life I reviewed films for pay. Okay,it was only for community newspapers  but I think I know the difference between a professional review written for money and a review written from the heart.  So even though I liked aspects of the film that more established critics did not appreciate, I am not going to allow those reviews to trivialize the emotions I may have felt while watching the film. 

Jane Fonda in Youth