Kristen Stewart knew she had to work with Kelly Reichardt. The "Wendy and Lucy" filmmaker’s previous movie, “Night Moves,” starred two of her friends, Dakota Fanning and Jesse Eisenberg. “Both of them were like, ‘Do anything with her!’” she recalls. And so we have “Certain Women,” which tells three stories of women: Laura Dern plays a lawyer who gets involved in a hostage situation; Michelle Williams pops up in the second act as a woman lightly struggling with her marriage. Stewart — now an art house queen, as we elaborated upon here — comes in during the third, playing a frazzled night school teacher who draws the mysterious attention of a lonely young women (Lily Gladstone). It’s a sad movie. And Stewart, 26, loves it that way.
We could just spend most of this interview geeking out over Kelly Reichardt together.
I f—king love her. I’m lucky enough to know her, and I can tell you that her movies really reflect her. You watch one and it’s very distinctly her. That’s kind of rare. And she’s not f—ing copying anyone. She’s able to create this whole environment that focuses on moments that happen in between the moments that people often focus on in movies. There’s something biting about her movies, too. I don’t think you laugh, but you think, ‘That’s funny. That’s really funny.’ That describes her s—t to me.
They have this strange quality, where they're both naturalistic and droney. At times they're almost like a piece of spacey ambient music.
Most people don't make films that aren't really trying to make you feel something all the time. In her case, it creates a sense of meditation, which is f—king rare. I watch her movies and I'm not thinking about it until afterwards. And they're slow. They're f—king quiet. There are a lot of gaps that inspire you to spiral off into tangential thoughts. It so absorbs me.
Her new film is a film about women, but it’s not overtly a political statement, or it doesn’t let itself be defined only by that.
They’re each up against something, but not in a way that’s self-aggrandizing. It’s not like, [shakes fist] “I am going to overcome this adversity!” None of them find resolve. They all want something they can’t have. You’ve got Michelle’s character, who’s kind of f—king with the conventional dynamic of what a marriage is. And then you have Laura’s character acknowledging the illogical nature of bureaucracy, and the fact that men don’t listen to women. But she doesn’t really do anything about it. It doesn’t work out for her. It’s agonizing, but in a quiet way. It’s a grind. They’re all f—king exhausted. These women are so tired. I love that.
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What about your character?
My chick just wants to feel f—king valid, and she isn’t going to [feel valid] while doing the things she’s doing. And you’ve got Lily’s character, who just wants a friend. She has a crush on someone and doesn’t even know what the hell that even is. She’s looking in all the wrong places. These people are f—king lonely. And it’s f—king painful. There’s a remoteness to all of them that seems learned, it seems protective. And it’s sad.
The interactions between the characters are so complex and speak to this idea that we’ll never really know anyone. But I’d like to argue that acknowledging that we’ll always get people wrong is kind of a relief.
We’re all so unaware of each other. It’s crazy. But [knowing that] does set you free a little bit. It’s weird. I’m constantly, with every friendship, every f—king family relationship, I’m like, “You need to know me!” Then you realize no one can know anyone. And it is relieving. There’s a relief to that. We never really know each other. On the other hand, that’s isolating and scary.
I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten more chill about not having a deep connection with every person I meet. And as a result I feel more confident and relaxed, strangely.
Seriously. You just need to relax a little bit. I’ve done that as I’ve gotten older, too. When I was younger I got super-freaked out if there wasn’t a clarity to every exchange. Now it’s like, ‘That’s fine, whatever, I don’t care.’
There’s a fun running gag in "Certain Women"'s diner scenes where your character keeps ordering food then only takes a couple bites before ditching it.
She just has no time for f—king anything. And she definitely doesn’t do anything that’s nice for herself. And it was such a bitch getting through those meals, because we shot every scene in the diner in one night. So I’m eating the cheeseburger and the grilled sandwich and a sundae and a soup. I thought I was going to die. By the end of the night I was sweating [laughs], like, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to puke.’ It’s everything I would have gotten, but all at the same time. It was gnarly.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge