Note: To those regular attendees of Movies at Mother’s, the April offering will not be “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” as originally announced.
On Wednesday April 3rd, Movies at Mothers continues The Women Directors Series with Kelly Reichardt’s 2010 feminist take on a true tale of the Oregon Trail, Meek’s Cutoff, starring Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Zoe Kazan, Shirley Henderson and Paul Dano.In 1845, a splinter group of settlers traveling the Oregon Trail were convinced by the fur trapper, Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood) that an alternative to the customary route following the Columbia River would take them directly through Eastern Oregon to the Willamette Valley, avoiding potentially aggressive Walla Walla and Cayuse tribes of the North. This film’s narrative begins well into the journey after the majority of the 200 strong wagon train has abandoned Meek due to a lack of confidence in his questionable familiarity with Eastern Oregon. The small band that has remained with him is now lost and also loosing patience as the lack of water and grass is taking a mighty toll on oxen and human travelers alike. Emily Tetherow (Michelle Williams) sees the travelers’ fates quickly unraveling, and when a lone Cayuse is captured by the party, she must take take control of the situation, and possibly place her faith in someone whose language she does not speak and whose intentions are unknown.
Kelly Reichardt, though originally from Florida has based the majority of her films in the Northwest and more specifically Oregon. Her melancholy second feature, Old Joy (2006), shot in Portland and Bagby Hot Springs, follows the reuniting of two old friends discovering that the difference in their separate paths may be irreconcilable. Wendy and Lucy (2008) follows a homeless woman (Michelle Williams) and her dog as they make their way from Portland to Astoria. Night Moves (2013), shot in and around Medford tells the story of three environmental activists (Jesse Eisenberg, Peter Sarsgaard and Dakota Fanning) wrestling with their commitment to radical action and its potential repercussions. Her work usually deals with characters existing at the boundaries between nature and civilized society, her camera drinking in the majestic nature that surrounds Oregon’s cities or the various small Montana towns depicted in her most recent offering, Certain Women (2016). That nature at once softens and embraces these pockets of human settlement, while at the same time looms over them ready to consume and reclaim.
Meek’s Cutoff is a loose adaptation of historical record. Reichardt has taken one of the more sorrowful episodes from the early days of the Oregon Trail and has refashioned it to shine a distinctly contemporary light on female empowerment, masculine authority and xenophobia. And yet all through it there is a remarkable sense of authenticity to the manners of the characters and their costumes. As shot by Christopher Blauvelt, the 1:33:1 Academy aspect ratio doesn’t simply imbue the film with a vintage appearance. The absence of the usual panoramic perspective we are accustomed to seeing in Westerns ties our field of view to that of the women in the story whose tunnel-like bonnets act as blinders, forcibly limiting their ability to see the world around them.
Apart from Reichardt favorite, Michelle Williams, the film also features solid performances from Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson and Will Patton as well as the always wonderful Zoe Kazan sporting the bonnet and the Oregon Trail dust she’s be wearing eight years later in “The Gal Who Got Rattled” segment in The Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018).
The excitement begins at 7:00 when you will enjoy one of the best dinners in town, followed by the screening at 7:30. Looking forward to seeing you there!
Mother’s Velvet Lounge is located at 212 SW Harvey Milk St..