The Simple Joys of Verisimilitude

My wife was born and grew up in Wyoming (she had stops in Hawaii and Pittsburgh before I lured her to West Virginia). She’s not big on “hometown pride” or anything, but it does make her cranky sometimes when Wyoming is depicted in popular culture and they get stuff wrong.

This weekend we saw Wind River, the new movie with Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. It’s set in Wyoming, mostly on the Wind River Indian Reservation. It’s not quite the part of the state where my wife grew up, but she knows the area (the main town involved is one she knows) and it’s one of the reasons we wanted to see the flick. It’s also gotten really excellent reviews, and deservedly so. Definite recommendation from me.

Anyhow, about midway through the film the Renner character delivers some important back-story. The movie is tense and atmospheric and, so, for an hour or so we’ve been leading up to horrible things happening. The character’s soliloquy eventually comes to this line (approximately): “the autopsy couldn’t give a definitive cause of death because the coyotes had gotten to her pretty good.”

Coyotes. You know, like this:

Only Renner doesn’t say “Keye-oh-tay,” like most people would. Instead, he pronounces it “keye-oht.”

This is an emotional gut punch moment, so I wasn’t surprised when my wife grabs my arm and leans over. “He said keye-oht! He got it right!” she whispers excitedly. Here, in this moment of deep character development, my wife is connecting with the character using the right local vernacular. It was all I could do to keep from laughing during a very not funny scene.

Getting the little parts right like that will often go unnoticed. If I’d been watching it without a Wyoming native right beside me, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But sometimes it matters, if only to a few people. It’s worth getting that kind of stuff right for them.

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