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Wendy and Lucy
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  • Williams shines in underwritten part

    In the almost aggressively noncommercial "Wendy and Lucy," Michelle Williams plays Wendy Carroll, a cash-strapped young woman who's driving from Indiana to Alaska in search of a job. Riding shotgun with her is a yellow German Shepard mix by the name of Lucy, the most reliable and trustworthy companion any drifter could possibly wish for. Wendy's situation goes from bad to worse when the beat-up `88 Honda Accord she's driving breaks down in a small town in Oregon and, not long after, Lucy herself goes missing. Wendy spends a sizable portion of the movie simply searching for the dog, while she endeavors to survive on an ever-dwindling supply of cash.

    That's about all the "plot" there is to "Wendy and Lucy," which is more of a stripped-down, slice-of-life mood piece than an actual drama. Writers Jonathan Raymond and Kelly Reichardt focus almost exclusively on the moment-by-moment struggles Wendy goes through as she attempts to make her way through the world, sans money and virtually all meaningful contact with other human beings. Director Reichardt recounts Wendy's plight with an air of noncommittal detachment, allowing the drama to arise organically out of the simple observation of daily life. There isn't even a musical score to help heighten the drama or tug at the heartstrings.

    While I admire what Raymond and Reichardt are attempting to do in "Wendy and Lucy," the fact of the matter is that the movie is almost too "small" for its own good (even in its running time, a mere 80 minutes). Without a sufficient back story to help explain how Wendy ended up in this predicament - and what, if anything, she is running away from - the movie fails to register the kind of emotional and psychological impact it might have had we gotten to know Wendy better. As it is, she remains an intriguing but frustratingly superficial character throughout.

    There is, however, one very good reason for checking out "Wendy and Lucy," and that is the tour de force performance by Williams, an actress who, up to this point, has done extraordinarily fine work in secondary roles (the most noteworthy being Heath Ledger's wife in "Brokeback Mountain"), but who has never been called upon to "carry" a whole feature film on her own - until now. The good news is that she proves herself more than equal to the task, imbuing Wendy with a believable amalgam of strengths and vulnerabilities, along with an innate intelligence that serves the character well in the situation in which she finds herself. Williams is richly complemented by Wally Dalton as a compassionate bank guard who offers Wendy the hand of friendship when she needs it most.

    Stripped down to the barest essentials of dramaturgy and filmmaking, "Wendy and Lucy" is an "art film" in both the best and worst senses of that term. ...more info
  • Did she make it to Alaska?
    Independent film maker Kelly Reichardt takes a tough but tender look at the people in America who are one sickness or accident away from personal catastrophe. Wendy and her dog Lucy are stranded in a depressing mill town in Oregon after leaving Indiana for a better life in Alaska. She's frugal and resourceful, recording her expenditures in a spiral notebook. She sleeps in her car, collects cans and bottles for spare change, and freshens up in gas station bathrooms. She observes to a security guard who's befriended her that you can't get a job without an address or phone, to which he replies: "Heck, you can't get an address without an address, or a job without a job. It's all rigged." Minor infractions with rule-keeping bureaucrats reap major consequences. When Wendy's twenty-year old car needs a $2,000 repair, we find her in the last scene hopping a train. But for where? She's a person like many people in America who have no past and no future, and who are going nowhere, both literally and figuratively. Even Lucy's fate is not what we expected....more info
  • Beautiful Movie...
    It is an almost gentle intrusion into the life of the female character played so competently by the immensely talented Williams. The director scores heavily with not only Williams but with the rest of the cast too. The actors enacting the security man and car-mechanic/owner roles bring home some powerful performances. It is so natural that it becomes surreal; I would easily tag this director as a great student of Satyajit Ray - another champion of underdogs!! Best Movie of 2008 - actually Williams did a better job than her former (and dead) BF in Dark Knight ( yawn!!)...more info
  • A meditation on getting bogged down in pursuit of a dream
    This is not an action film. It moves slowly for a reason--though I must add that there are some rather lengthy tracking shots that just take up time but don't contribute much. At any rate, this is a meditation on what can happen to someone who leaves home in pursuit of a dream that wasn't all that well thought-out to begin with. Wendy leaves the Midwest to try to get work in Alaska, but has failed to consider that things could go very wrong. She runs low on dog food, has to use money to try to fix her car, makes the stupid error of trying to shoplift, gets stuck in jail and has to pay a fine, then finds that her dog is gone, and so on. All this time, she's stuck in Oregon, frustrated and alone, washing up in a gas station bathroom. She even foolishly tries sleeping out in the open one night.
    Michelle Williams is appealing in a very non-glamorous role, while the dog Lucy is equally watchable. There is no tear-jerking music, thank goodness, and no propaganda. If there's a point here, it's that we should plan and invest much more carefully before setting out on such a journey. Wendy's greatest flaw is her naivete.
    ...more info
  • Draggy and Sad
    A kind of draggy but sympathetic story of a young attractive woman and her dog as they meet hard times and encounter very disheartening down-on-your luck experiences. Since this film is very slow moving, one must rely on the fast forward button to get through time consuming scenes of inactivity....more info
  • A heartbreaking portrayal of true suffering...
    Sometimes simple can say so much, and that is the case with this independent gem. `Wendy and Lucy' quite simple tells the story of Wendy and Lucy, a young woman and her dog. Wendy is virtually homeless, sleeping in her car as she makes her way to Alaska where she feels her life will be better. Lucy is her faithful `yellow gold' dog who sticks by her side and proves to be the only sunlight in Wendy's life. The film opens with Wendy and Lucy walking through the woods playing fetch as a consistent and almost tranquil hum embeds itself in our ears and it is that simple imagery that tells us all we need to know about Wendy.

    Without Lucy, she is lost.

    The film doesn't have much plot depth, for it can be summed up in one sentence:

    "Wendy loses Lucy and desperately tries to find her."

    Trying to cast the film off as nothing more than that though is a shame, since despite the shallow plot points the film has such rich depth of character here. The real story is not Wendy's attempt to find Lucy but WHY Wendy must find Lucy. There is a statement on the back of the DVD that makes the accusation that the reason this film has an R rating is that censors don't want children to realize that people are lonely and that life is not always peachy. Well, honestly, this film is rated R for the F-words that are spoken (sure, there aren't a LOT, but there are more than 3); but I think that there lies some truth in that statement as well. We (and by we, I mean the general adult public) try so hard today to shield our children from pain that we don't prepare them enough for the actuality of that said pain. When they come face to face with the harsh realities of the world outside they may, sadly, be unable to cope with it. I'm not saying that allowing your children to watch this particular film is going to help them be better able to tackle life's eventual hard-times, but I do feel that more films like this need to be made, with a lighter rating (no need for the language at all here) in order to instill in children the need for a thick skin in this often grim society.

    Life is not always peachy; in fact, it rarely ever is.

    Michelle Williams is a revelation here, sinking so far into her character that she becomes in recognizable. The way her face contorts when she is hearing the worst news ever (just watch the way she crumbles with subtlety when she is hearing about her car) is just so soul reaching. She is the opposite of showy but she never fails to touch us. We understand why she needs to find Lucy because we can see in her eyes, in her mannerisms, in her voice that this dog is all she has left to hold onto. There are few films that require an actor or actress to carry every scene, and when that film comes along it takes a special actress to actually do just that.

    Michelle Williams does JUST that.

    The film is not going to be for everyone. With the simple plot progression some will find this boring, but that is a shame in my opinion. These small films are very important in getting to understand ourselves inside and out. `Wendy and Lucy' has been hailed as one of the best films of 2008, and I agree wholeheartedly. It is a story that will touch your heart with its honesty and sincerity. `Marley and Me' may have been a sweet and touching story of a family touched by the life of a dog, but `Wendy and Lucy' is an even more honest and poignant depiction of the deep-seated need for friendship and loyalty in ones life; even if it's from a dog....more info
  • Many are like Wendy...One blown engine away from being forced to make tough decisions....
    I thought the movie was very compelling and enlightening. For me it illustrated that many of today's youth (in their late teens and early twenties) are like Wendy: living on the fringe, without the benefit of a supportive family, an elaborate education, a skill or craft, or money behind them.

    However, Wendy has a work ethic and a desire to better her position, evidenced by her long trip to find a job. She does not have the sense of entitlement that you see in more priveledged young people today. Again, many people in Wendy's straights are just one blown car engine away from a change in the course of their lives.

    It is a simple story, beautifully told and filmed in Ms. Reichardt's visually engrossing style. The long camera-panning scenes of the landscapes and the way the camera follows Wendy as she walks and runs thru the town at night are absolutely beautiful while also serving to move the story forward. Visually, the movie is stunning.

    Three other impressions:

    - Walter Dalton as the security guard gives a fine and subdued performance. His character illustrates a similar plight (and work ethic) as Wendy's. He is an elderly man working 12 hour shifts and states that the job is better than his last.

    - It seemed to me that many in the movie would have liked to have helped Wendy more than they did, but because of the system and economic situation they were in themselves, they could not. (For example, the store manager and the auto mechanic, and even the security guard).

    - Michelle Williams is wonderful in the movie. The long silences did not bother me. Her expressions and movements demonstrated to me that she is a girl who is down on her luck but has not despaired yet. She is thinking of the best solution for the problems she faces. Wendy may have made a couple of bad decisions. However, look at how young and on her own she is.

    Overall, a fine movie by a fine director. I highly recommend.
    ...more info