Meek's Cutoff

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Much as we admire Kelly Reichardt's resigned Old Joy (and, to a lesser extent, her must-love-dogs Wendy and Lucy), there's no getting around the pretentiousness of her latest, a drab-looking Western set on the Oregon Trail in 1845. A group of settlers is lost, led astray by the fatuous ego of one Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), an inept guide. Yet the film itself feels stranded as well, outfoxed by an overly coy visual design: Reichardt mostly avoids close-ups of any of her characters, resulting in an oddly inert assemblage of distant nobodies. When a sunbonneted Michelle Williams suddenly bursts out of the pack toting a rifle and hard stare, it feels like the worst kind of arbitrariness—a gesture made for women's-studies theses.—Joshua Rothkopf

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