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It was not manifest destiny that led cineastes to the Landmark Sunshine Theater, but the Cinema Society screening of Pioneer drama “Meek’s Cutoff” and the promise of free alcohol. “Is this, or is this not about the computer game ‘Oregon Trail’?” One partygoer joked, entering the venue. For the record, it’s not.
The visually stunning film takes place in 1845, but some of its stars felt old enough in the present-day: “Oh my god, I feel like your grandmother. Look how grown up you are,” Michelle Williams beamed, pulling her 14-year-old co-star Tommy Nelson in for a hug before speaking in a jokey “old-lady” voice: “They grow up so fast.” Williams (who was only half a head taller than Nelson, despite her four-inch Ferragamo heels) was gamine and lovely in a sequin-cap sleeved Chanel shift, a drastic change from her on-screen character, who spent much of the film caked in dirt and wrapped in bonnets of muted pastel colors. Williams spent much of the hour pre-screening embracing and enthusing over various people involved in the project, including castmates Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Neal Huff and director Kelly Reichardt. Sofia Coppola happily snacked on popcorn in the theater, sitting near Holly Hunter and Nancy and Santiago Gonzalez, who helped sponsor the evening. Rachel Roy took her seat near Fabien Baron and Ann Dexter-Jones, while Beastie Boy Adam Yauch stayed standing to chat with Rob McElhenny and Charlie Day. Shalom Harlow traipsed in, giggling with a friend, just before Stephen Baldwin. Before the film began, Reichardt took to the microphone to thank her “partners in this experience,” listing her cast members and then squealing, “Yaaay! You’re all here!” as the lights dimmed.
The bleak and impervious dust-filled terrain of the film or the harsh situations in which the characters found themselves did not damper the mood at the after-party at Jimmy, the roof-venue at the James Hotel in SoHo. Several of the luminaries who attended were unpredictably of a musical bent: Yauch was spotted chatting with Sheryl Crow, who snacked on hors d’oeuvres as Santigold ordered drinks at the bar. Courtney Love appeared an hour before the party ended, heading straight for a private corner near the bathrooms with the intent of “putting on her lipstick.” Anna Sui and Olivier Theyskens were also circulating through the crowded party, as Alan Cumming braved the elements and posed for photographs on the uncovered roof-deck near the pool. The temperature was frigid, but you wouldn’t know it from Cumming’s demeanor. “I’m a professional,” he winked, waiting until the camera was pointing elsewhere to shiver violently and rush back inside.
Love, fresh from a screening at the MoMa of “Hit So Hard,” which chronicled the life and near death of Hole drummer Patty Schemel, was eager to discuss both her outfit (her sequin-suspendered skirt/blouse were Alexander McQueen and accessories were a mixture of Lanvin, Givenchy and Valentino) and her feelings on life, love and the fashion world: “[‘Hit So Hard’] was great, it was heavy though. Lots of footage of Frances as a baby, lots of footage of Kurt [Cobain]. Of me and Kurt doing songs… heavy. And kind of like, how insane we were but good we were. The past, man. Things happen and change so quickly. In 2006, I was only invited to two fashion shows, and then the next season I was over-over-invited and I was sitting in the Coco Chanel suite at the Ritz [Paris] having a nervous breakdown.
“By the way, that’s a quality problem, okay? That is a quality problem. I can think of worse places to be, with them throwing gowns at me. Usually that situation I would be very happy, but I don’t know why I was like, ‘Jump out the window!’ I was very depressed. But in the movie tonight, you see it’s when I first came to town, it’s one in the morning, I’m eating cookies wearing this Geminola dress — Christmas green, Christmas red. I’m wearing red eyeshadow with green on top. And Louboutins that are so blingy. And feathers in my hair. And you know, what happened was, Lagerfeld looks at me and goes ‘What are you wearing? A tutu? I see a tutu.
You’re never going to get laid in a tutu.’ And I go, ‘I have a record coming out!’ and he goes: ‘It’s not working.’ So I was in that like, tutu phase. I’m on film forevermore…in a tutu. It’s tragic. It’s a very heavy film.”