Kristen Stewart may seem to have turned a corner in her career by transitioning from big-budget studio movies to independent films, but Stewart insists she doesn’t prefer one over the other. During Monday’s New York Film Festival press conference for director Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women,” a drama in which Stewart plays a young lawyer, she told the audience she never focuses on the difference between doing an indie film or a studio movie.
“You could technically draw distinctions, because you have more money to play with and then it naturally affects the dynamic a little bit,” Stewart said, “but at the end of the day, I’ve never approached anything [thinking], oh, this is bigger now, therefore I’m less entitled to something meaningful.”
In “Certain Women,” which will receive a specialty release next week from IFC Films, Stewart’s character Beth teaches an adult education course in a small Montana town four hours away from where she lives. She is almost always in some form of transit, as are the three other women with whom Stewart’s story connects directly and tangentially, played by Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Lily Gladstone. Reichardt wrote the screenplay as a loose adaptation of short stories by Maile Meloy.
One of the things that drew Stewart to the project is Reichardt’s ability to capture meaningful moments that take place away from any real action, when characters are simply moving from one place to another. “If you can look at the stuff that goes on in between stuff, like getting to and fro, that’s when things start clicking,” Stewart said. “You start revealing things rather than displaying them, and that’s what I love about [Reichardt’s] movies.”
Dern said she agreed to do the film — her first with Reichardt — for essentially the exact same reason. “She is interested in the life that happens in the pauses,” Dern said. “It is in the space where no one’s watching that you reveal the most about yourself.”
For Reichardt, all of her films have led her to capture characters in the middle of what she refers to as processes, whether taking a walk, building a fire, or feeding an animal. “I’m just trying to work some story into that sort of thing, and I’ve come to realize that all the films, and this one included, end up being a lot about driving from point A to point B,” she said, adding the women in Meloy’s stories fit well into those environments. “There were all these great women characters that were sort of alienated to the people that were closest to them, but somehow making connections to people that were strangers,” she said.
While Stewart said she follows no formula for how to choose which roles to accept, she said that working with directors whose work she admires deeply, like Reichardt, is a good way to ensure success. “I’ve worked recently with a lot of people that I’ve grown up really loving,” she said. “It’s super conducive to making good shit.”
“Certain Women” screens at NYFF on October 3 and October 4. IFC Films releases it on October 14.