'Painted Woman' review: Not your average western

David Thomas Jenkins, left, and Stef Dawson perform as Vince Wagner and Julie Richards. / Photo by Priscilla Tran Photography
By: 
Amanda Corbin and Jenny Huggins
News Reporters

Keep up with "Painted Woman" online at www.facebook.com/paintedwomanfilm and www.paintedwomanfilm.com.

Editor’s Note: These reviews may contain spoilers for “Painted Woman.” The film is screening this week in Fort Smith, Ark.
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Huggins: “Painted Woman” is an inspirational story of a young woman named Julie Richards, who found her voice and her strength in an impossible situation. The movie — which falls most closely into the western genre — is not your typical western.

Julie starts out as little more than a slave for a rich and influential old man. Through his mistreatment, she is forced to find the inner strength to stand up to traditional ideals of what a woman should be and she makes her own way in the world.

Julie is helped by multiple dynamic characters on her road to self discovery. Vince Wagner, a lone mustanger, offers her a view of a world she has never experienced — s world where people are kind and one in which Julie can envision a life of happiness.

Ultimately, Julie learns a universal lesson, life is never what we expect it to be. Through beautiful scenery and cinematography, Julie takes viewers on her journey and makes it feel like their own.
The most inspiring aspect of the story is that Julie learns what is really inside of her and that there are good people in the world ready to help, and she is strong enough to become one herself.

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Corbin: Want a bit of everything? “Painted Woman” has it — comedy, romance, drama and action, all bound together in one western film still screening in theaters across the border in Fort Smith, Ark.

“Painted Woman” takes inspiration from Dusty Richards’ western novel “The Mustanger and the Lady.”

Producer Amber Lindley and Associate Producer Priscilla Tran spoke on Director James Cotten’s take on the film in a visit to Poteau when it screened in the local theatre, stating that Cotten “has an understanding and a sensitivity to women and our issues” and viewers would not know the film was directed by a man because Cotten “did it so well with his understanding of those kinds of experiences [of women]. “And like Tran and Lindley said, Cotten delivers.

Julie Richards (played by Stef Dawson) escapes her life of prostitution only to find herself hunted down. She then meets what we presume to be her hero — Vince Wagner (played by David Thomas Jenkins). But the film becomes less of a hero saving the damsel in distress, and more about Julie rescuing herself as she takes the reigns of her own life.

The film also couldn’t premiere at a better time after the explosion of the social media #MeToo movement. Time Magazine announced earlier this week that the movement, whom they called “The Silence breakers,” was Time’s Person of the Year. It is a year of strong women, and Julie is undoubtedly a strong character who showcases the ability of the woman to be inspiring, unrelenting and, no doubt, empowering.

In addition to the emotional maturity of “Painted Woman,” it is visually and audibly stunning. Filmed in Oklahoma, it showcases much of our state’s natural beauty.

There is also a play with color. Taking a note from its inspiration from Richards’ novel, the film is divided into a first and second chapter, which mirror each other with the first half dark and shadowy, a representation of the unfortunate hole Julie has found herself in. When we begin the second chapter, it truly takes off like a new chapter in her life as, visually, light is allowed to expand and illuminate the film’s settings and characters.

It also plays with the ear. All the familiar sounds of the south are noted, such as the crickets in the wilderness.

The filmmakers use sound to expand or relieve tension between characters. Just as well, the dialogue feels natural and unforced, allowing for the viewer to easily become captivated with the story of Julie in her venture to survive.

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