Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women finds the indie auteur still doing things her own way
IF YOU WANT to work with director Kelly Reichardt — and plenty of actors do — a role in a recent punk-rock biopic probably wouldn’t hurt. “I’ve worked with three of the band members in
The Runaways,” she laughs of recent collaborations with Kristen Stewart in her latest, Certain Women, and Dakota Fanning and Alia Shawkat in Night
Moves. With a rep as an actor’s director nurtured over two decades of quietly uncompromising work, A-listers now queue up to work with her.
For Certain Women, a Montana-set tableau of working women judged Best Film at 2016’s BFI London Film Festival, she’s added nonrunaways Laura Dern and her Meek’s Cutoff lead Michelle Williams, as well as newcomer Lily Gladstone, who delivers a standout performance. Embroidered with moments of connection, it’s a slow-burner with the feel of a fuzzy, lo-fi Robert Altman. Yet, it’s the kind of film only Reichardt could make — and, you sense, the only kind she’d want to. Creating chemistry is key. “There’s a lot that can happen between the lines,” she says of her ethos. “Actors are into investigating that.”
Her leads embraced the relaxed approach. “You’ve got to have a plan, but you’ve [also] got to be open to the gift of whatever’s coming,” says Reichardt. “Directing is not something you can master in my experience, because you’re dealing with a group of people and it’s a live thing,” she muses on the special alchemy of a film set. “Gus Van Sant says that if you shoot a scene on Tuesday morning, it’d be different to the same scene shot with the same cast and crew after lunch on Tuesday,” she says. “I think that’s true.”
Not every part of the process has stayed the same since her debut, 1994’s River Of Grass. “I’d walk into meetings where people would say, ‘Well, you’ve got a female director, a female producer and a female lead. That’s three strikes against you.’” Things have changed a little since then. “They don’t say those things out loud anymore,” she notes wryly. Her next project, an adaptation of Patrick dewitt’s Undermajordomo Minor, will offer a change of genre — it’s a juicy murder-mystery with shades of The Princess Bride. Somehow, you know it’ll still be unmistakably a Kelly Reichardt film.