No doubt, thousands of people will jump up and down and proclaim Kelly Reichardt's latest film one of the greatest films on women's studies ever produced, at least in this century. By the end of the last frame of the last scene, I was certain of it. It would be a sad commentary to give it that much credit as it is missing the one thing that every great story should have. A coherent ending.


Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart and Lily Gladstone star as four Montana women living in and around the town of Livingston (not far down the highway from Bozeman). All four women are scheduled to brush across each other during the story, but it is in no means one of those films where the lives of different characters intersect in a truly meaningful way, even when they should be meaningful.


Dern plays Laura Wells, an attorney with an incredible headache of a client named Fuller. Fuller was hurt on his job, has an ongoing medical condition that has left him unemployed, strapped for cash and basically homeless as his wife has left him. He feels he has a liability case and has hired Wells to represent him. But for a very long time she has tried to explain to him that he no longer has a case and he refuses to listen, The simple reason is that he is sexist and has hired her so he can attempt to dictate his nothing case.

The film could have actually locked in on them and eliminated the other scenarios; it would have been a much more interesting and complete film if it had. But it shifts to Gina Lewis, who is building her dream home with her familiar looking husband Ryan (who is in the first scene with Laura Dern). However, she is up against it with her spoiled brat, uncooperative daughter (Sara Rodier). Gina and her husband are trying to convince a senile old friend (Rene Auberjonois) to give them his pile of sandstone for their home. That's it folks!


Kristen Stewart plays Beth Travis, a law school student who has taken a job as a teacher in a one horse town. She is teaching educational law and the students are all adults with one - Jamie (Gladstone) - interested in more than the class. She has an immediate thing for Travis that Travis naively never picks up. They develop a one-way relationship in which Jamie has become totally infatuated with her teacher.


The film dances between the women and their "coming together" is as subtle as a whisper from a sleeping person; barely noticeable. The performances, for what it's worth, are terrific as is the scenary and cinematography. There maybe some PETA people freaking out about one of the horses having to carry two women, but even that is subtle.


Though all the women come off as strong, self-assured and forward thinking, the stories go absolutely nowhere. Is it enough to show the day in a life of a Montana lawyer, a Montana student, a Montana designer and a Montana horseman without some sort of conclusion other than they exist?


Ironically, the two most intriguing relationship is that between Dern and her two male counterparts. Jared Harris is priceless as a dimwitted man who can't face the fact that he is a dimwit.


"Certain Women" is a beautifully cast, beautifully executed, beautiful film that goes absolutely nowhere. It takes four almost interesting characters, develops them then leaves them - and the audience out to freeze in the Montana winter.   -- GEOFF BURTON