If you still only associated Kristen Stewart with the Twilight franchise and her face in the tabloids, her work over the last few years should’ve changed that for good. Thanks to impressive performances in films like Clouds of Sils Maria and Still Alice, the actor has finally seemed to free herself from the limits of her Twilight days, showing off her acting chops in a series of great — and feminist — movie roles. Her latest film, the upcoming drama Certain Women, showcases some of her most accomplished work to date, featuring Stewart as the type of complicated, flawed, totally believable woman who, she said while at the movie’s Sundance Film Festival red carpet on Sunday, is rarely seen on-screen.
“It’s like every movie that’s overtly commercial needs to be about women overcoming something unbelievable, or it’s a love story,” Stewart said. Certain Women, however, “tells three very different stories about working women, women who are not seeing everything in front of them, women who are making enormous misconnections and who are not top dogs, who are actually just trying to figure something out, who are all quite confused. And that’s more interesting than somebody, like, prevailing over some massive feat.”
In the Kelly Reichardt-directed film, the lead female characters, played by Stewart, Michelle Williams, Laura Dern, and newcomer Lily Gladstone, are separated in three distinct storylines: Stewart plays an overworked lawyer teaching a night class to Gladstone’s lonely, longing student; Williams is one half of a couple in the midst of building a house; Dern takes on the role of a lawyer unwillingly tasked with talking a troubled client down from a hostage situation. Their lives are incredibly different from one another, but, as Stewart explained on the red carpet, they’re all connected in one significant way.
“All three stories involve somebody who is desirous of something that they can’t have,” said Stewart. “They’re fixated on something, but really what they’re actually concerned with is something very different… they’re just very particular people, they’re people who don’t see everything, they’re people you want to tap on the shoulder and say, you’re really missing the ball here.”
For Stewart, her role of Beth Travis, a distracted young woman who doesn’t understand the full extent of her student’s interest in her, was a stark departure from the typical parts for women in film.
“I basically wanted to play somebody who is distracted and not seeing what was in front of her, because usually in movies, especially the young female protagonist, it’s like we need to lead you through the entire story very obviously,” she said. “This was just about two lonely unobservant typical girls that just aren’t seeing each other quite clearly. I thought that was quite interesting.”
Certain Women may be a bold change from the normal female-led films produced in Hollywood, but it’s no anomaly in Stewart’s increasingly impressive resume.