Toronto 2010: Werner Herzog in 3D

Meek's Cutoff.jpgAfter five days of wandering downtown from theater to theater, we're still clamoring for something that approaches brilliance. That's in lieu of even discovering a movie that's flat-out brilliant. This morning we came close. Kelly Reichardt's "Meek's Cutoff" was shown, and it meets a standard of both general excellence and personal idiosyncrasy that is increasingly rare in serious American moviemaking. In other words, Reichardt isn't in pursuit of an Oscar. 

Her movie is a painstaking telling of the journey several families took across the parched prairies of the West in 1846. Their guide was Stephen Meek, a blustery fur trapper, and it's unclear whether they should have left the Oregon Trail to reach their desired destination in the Willamette Valley faster since all the detour -- the Meek Cutoff -- wins them, in Reichardt's film, is frustration. The actual trip involved hundreds of people. This version is more intimate -- three families. 

Michelle Williams, Shirley Henderson, and Zoe Kazan play the women. Will Patton and Paul Dano play two of the men, and beneath a bale of cottony gray hair is Bruce Greenwood as Meek. The little bit of research I've done failed to turn up confirmation that Meek actually sounded like Danny Glover, but Greenwood makes it work for him.

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