Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wendy and Lucy

Wendy is an endearingly pathetic young lady who has lost her dog, Lucy. She doesn't have much cash, but is trying to make her way to Alaska. Trying to save a few bucks, she shoplifts some dog food. She's caught by a store employee and hauled off in a squad car. After spending several hours in jail, she returns to the store where Lucy was tied up outside. She's gone, of course. To make matters worse, Wendy's car has broken down. Much of the movie is Wendy trying to figure out what to do next, trying to find her dog and dealing with her car repair. There is one recognizable actor, Will Patton, who's been in a bunch of stuff. I remember seeing him on "24" recently. And Michelle Williams as Wendy is terrific. But the movie has a sort of homemade feel to it, as if the other actors are real people who just happened to be around when filming began.

Not much happens in the movie, on one level, but for Wendy it's everything. Her world is crashing down. What we never learn is why this is her world. How did a seemingly bright, resourceful young lady end up driving cross-country from Indiana with her heart set on Alaska? In one scene Wendy calls up her sister. Her brother-in-law sounds pretty sympathetic, but her sister shouts at her, accusing her of calling for money. What's the story there? I don't have a ton of sympathy for Wendy, as likable as she is. But if I knew why she was there, what was behind her trek, maybe I would feel for her more. Anyone who has ever had a dog can empathize with her when she loses Lucy, of course, but I want to know more about Wendy.

By way of explanation, this style of leaving things out seems to fit the director's style. Kelly Reichardt teaches film at Bard College. On the DVD, she included, as it says on the case, "a collection of experimental gems from the Film Faculty at Bard College." I think she must have done so to contrast with her film. They are so pointless and bizarre, it makes Wendy and Lucy, a stripped-down, low budget, pedestrian film, look like a major, special-effects-filled, plot-driven blockbuster by contrast.

I do have to mention the dog. I'd like to take her home.

Bottom line on this one: 2 stars

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