‘Certain Women’ was a bad movie, but I got something out of it
All my life, I have seen people cut their hamburgers in half and thought they were nerds. It always seemed like an affectation more than an improvement—some little behavior that’s become part of the ritual even though it doesn’t accomplish very much, like opening your mouth while applying mascara or tapping a wet toothbrush on the edge of your sink. Eating a hamburger, I thought, is not that hard. If there are too many toppings for the sandwich to be structurally sound, take some out. Problem solved.
But then last Friday I saw Certain Women, a meandering drama about three Montana residents trying to make it happen despite having a lot to learn. Sometimes, the women are manipulating their neighbors into selling them bricks from the old schoolhouse. Other times, they are remaining calm in an office hostage situation. The scene that impacted me the most, though, took place in a diner. One of Kristen Stewart’s students brings her there after class, and not long afterward, a hamburger gets cut in half.
Stewart cuts it mid-conversation, without losing her place in the story she’s telling, and then eats it while she describes the women in her family. She is unhappy and has a long drive ahead of her. Her grip on the sandwich is mindless. The fact that she’s holding an all-American grilled beef patty pressed dourly between two very flat-looking buns is almost circumstantial, and something about the visual of that compact hamburger-half really spoke to me. She was so nonchalant! Gesturing with it! Like she was holding a fork, or a Pop Tart.
There’s maybe an hour left in the very boring movie after that scene, so I had a lot of time for the idea to marinate. Tonight, I thought as Michelle Williams wordlessly stared out at a chilly vista, I am going to cut a hamburger in half. On the walk home, I threw the idea out to my friend. We passed a neighborhood bar/restaurant whose food I would describe as “exactly fine,” and I pitched my idea.
“I am going to order a hamburger.”
“Is this because of the diner scene?”
It is nice to be known.
I ordered my burger medium well. I did not want cheese, I did not want grilled onions for $1.50 (lol) extra. When the sandwich came, I opened the bun and spread ketchup across the patty and the top bun with a knife. I laid the leaf of Bibb lettuce and pickles from the side of my plate across the top, closed everything back up, and sliced into it in one straight shot. The cutting process wasn’t a hassle the way I’d always assumed it’d be with burgers from Applebee’s or the airport—there were no blue cheese crumbles to trip me up, no quarter pound of leaky beef. For authenticity’s sake, I pressed the bun down with my palm to flatten it the way that Stewart’s had been in the movie. I took a bite. It was good.
The first upside you notice is flavor. You’re biting into the middle of the burger instead of the edge, so you get all of your taste elements right there from the jump. I’m talking pickle flavors, condiment flavors, beef flavors. You’re also biting into the densest part of the sandwich content-wise, meaning more of your food is going into your mouth than being squeezed out the back end of the bun. I felt like a goddamn sommelier sitting there in the booth seat of my casual American dining establishment.
“This tastes…so good,” was my review.
I’ve never been so pleased to be wrong about something. And honestly, this opens a lot of doors for me—not just in terms of other things I can cut in half (of which there are many), but other things I’ve written off as the folly of people addicted to creating traits for themselves. If this is good, what else is? Sulfate-free shampoo? Hand sanitizer*? There’s a whole planet for me to explore with this expanded state of mind. Plus, there’s a nice moral here about movies that are bad. Even if the pacing is glacial and the connections between plot lines are tenuous, you might just figure out how you prefer to eat your hamburger. The things you don’t like are just as valuable to you as the things you do. They’re married to each other, actually.
It’s only been a few days, so I haven’t had the opportunity to eat another burger yet, but I know that I will soon. And when I do, fam? It‘s gonna be so good.
*Just kidding, we all know that’s a scam.