December 10, 2008

Review: Wendy and Lucy

Kelly Reichardt wants to make small, intimate films about people and their lives who most of the world ignores. That's not exactly the formula for a hit movie. But Reichardt could care less and I find that impressive. Wendy and Lucy is not going to break any box office records, but it's going to break some hearts, especially dog lovers like me. Michelle Williams stars as Wendy, a young woman (we really don't know her age) driving herself and her dog to Alaska in her beat up car in search of a job at a cannery. That's not exactly the pursuit of the "American dream." But Wendy is a symbol of how people just trying to do the right thing still fall through the cracks. She doesn't have a lot of options and the best one she sees is to drive thousands of miles for a potential job that will probably be physically taxing and difficult.

This film has become even more relevant in our economic meltdown. It's like the news that you can't avoid on TV and newspapers has come to life. And it's not pretty. Wendy's only companion is Lucy, her dog. People will do anything for their dogs (I know that for a fact) and when Wendy shoplifts some dog food she gets arrested. After spending several hours in jail and having to pay a fine with some of the little money she has left, she returns to the store to find her dog gone. Of course, nobody has seen anything. To top it off, her car is dead and being off the grid she has no cell phone and no support system. Her dog is all she has keeping her together. The rest of the movie is a search for Lucy with absolutely no resources, except for an borrowed cell phone from a security guard who takes pity on her. Her vulnerability continues to grow and becomes more palpable. You feel scared for her especially when she winds up sleeping in the woods and gets robbed. She is all alone in the woods in the middle of the night with someone rooting around through her stuff. Scary.

It's really amazing how far Michelle Williams has come from her days on Dawson's Creek. She's got some serious talent. She is onscreen for practically every second and sucks you into her plight. The film was made on a minuscule budget in 15 days. But it works and it makes you think. This is a movie that I am excited to see again. What's also exciting is the talent and vision of director Kelly Reichardt who is a clear auteur (a word I don't use lightly.) She's unafraid and actually embraces silence which is quite bold compared with other movies in this day and age.

Wendy and Lucy opens in NY today, LA on Friday, and will roll out across the country over the next couple of months. Here's info on where it will be playing.

The Women & Hollywood film club will be seeing the film together in NY this Saturday at 4:30. Here are details.

Check out the trailer:

Other info:
Kelly Reichardt, director of WENDY AND LUCY, Interview (Spout)
An Actress Moves On, Or Tries To (Newsweek)