Women tend not to fare too well, or matter at all really, in Scorsese films. Just think about Vera Farmiga’s role in The Departed last year: a psychiatrist with apparently no professional ethics, she existed mostly to listen to Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon’s whining and cause even more drama between them.

Michelle Williams is probably used to this kind of role, though, since her big breakout was as a neglected wife to a closeted gay man in Brokeback Mountain. Now she’s joined the cast of Scorsese’s next project Shutter Island, where she’ll not only be the neglected-wife-on-the-side, she’ll actually be dead, and speaking to her husband (DiCaprio) from the grave.

The movie, which also stars Ben Kingsley and Mark Ruffalo, is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River, both of which were turned into acclaimed films. Shutter Island will share both films’ Massachusetts setting and crime story, but it’s set on an island off the coast of Boston which is home to an asylum for the criminally insane. The murderer Rachel Solando is believed to be hiding out there, and when two U.S. Marshals (Ruffalo and DiCaprio) go there to investigate, a hurricane traps them there with a hospital full of restless inmates.

It’s hard to imagine how Williams’ part will fit in with the whole crime investigation story, or the vaguely Stephen King-esque storm on a remote island. I have a little bit of faith that Scorsese will treat her right, but not a whole lot. I’m more expecting her ghost to be a sounding board for DiCaprio’s character, more a prop for shedding light on him than having a personality of her own. Hey, I like Scorsese—yay Departed! Yay Raging Bull!—but female characters are not what he does best.
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