I really don’t think I’m going to do the plot of Certain Women justice so I’m going to depart from my usual format and just paste in the official synopsis here:
One of America’s foremost filmmakers, Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff) directs a remarkable ensemble cast led by Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, and Laura Dern in this stirring look at three women striving to forge their own paths amidst the wide-open plains of the American Northwest: a lawyer (Dern) who finds herself contending with both office sexism and a hostage situation; a wife and mother (Williams) whose determination to build her dream home puts her at odds with the men in her life; and a young law student (Stewart) who forms an ambiguous bond with a lonely ranch hand (radiant newcomer Lily Gladstone). As their stories intersect in subtle but powerful ways, a portrait emerges of flawed, but strong-willed individuals in the process of defining themselves.
OK, with that out of the way let’s see how it’s being sold to the public.
The movie’s one poster is wonderful. It’s simple, with what looks like just a pencil sketch on a canvas, the drawing showing the four lead characters. There’s no copy or tagline here, just a single critic’s quote toward the bottom alongside its festival credentials. It’s stylistically similar to the minimalist poster for director Kelly Reichardt’s previous movie Meek’s Cutoff.
Wow, the first trailer is pretty great. It bounces between Beth, who’s dealing with being an over-qualified teacher and who might be flirting with one of her students, Gina, who’s trying to pull one over on a man she’s trying to buy a house from but whose husband keeps getting in her way because he thinks he knows best and Laura, who’s caught between varying priorities and responsibilities and who wishes, toward the end of the trailer, she could be a man and have everything be so easy and restful.
There is a through-line to the story but it’s not shown or hinted at in the trailer. So we don’t know how these three stories intersect at any point. But that’s alright since the primary purpose of the trailer is to show off the performances by Stewart, Williams and Dern and all three look fantastic. This is showing the movie to be a quiet, character-driven exploration of power and societal role and so we don’t need to worry about tying everything together. Just sit back and let these performances wash over you since they appear excellent.
Online and Social
Unfortunately, as with many IFC Films releases, there isn’t much happening on the official website. All you’ll find there is the trailer, a synopsis, cast and crew list, the poster and a link to a Twitter search for #CertainWomen in case you’d like to learn more.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing here I’ve seen or am otherwise aware of.
Media and Publicity
The Sundance debut of the movie was accompanied by interviews with the cast and crew like this one with Michelle Williams where she talked about what drew her to the story. Stewart was also interviewed where she talked about the themes of the movie and more. It was a couple months, though, before it was picked up by IFC for distribution later in the year.
Later on the general public got its first look at the movie via the release of a batch of stills.
There was a big profile of Stewart that was really more focused on her personal habits and eccentricities but which also mentioned the movie, part of a campaign to make her more relatable and human, not just the tabloid fodder she’s too often reduced to.
The movie was later added to the lineup of the Toronto International Film Festival. After that, at the New York Film Festival, Stewart and the rest of the cast talked about the emotional resonance of the story, the characters and more about the unique angle the movie takes.
The primary component of the marketing is the press and publicity push. That’s really where the studio has poured the resources since, with a limited release movie like this that’s made a big splash at festivals but isn’t, under almost any circumstance in 2016, going to play to the masses. That publicity push has allowed the cast and crew to talk about the movie in a way that can’t be conveyed through other marketing materials.
That’s not to say the rest of the marketing hasn’t been good – it has. But while the trailer and poster are both outstanding the site lacks quite a bit and there’s no advertising or anything, meaning it’s not a hugely well-rounded push. There’s going to be a portion of the audience that sees the trailer in some context and decides to check it out but for the most part awareness and interest are, I’m guessing, going to be largely dependent on the word of mouth from early screenings and appreciation of the talent involved.