Michelle Williams stars as Wendy, a homeless young woman on her way to Alaska in Kelly Reichardt's sparse independent film Wendy and Lucy. Lucy is Wendy's dog (who happens to be the filmmaker's own). When we first meet Wendy and her canine, the inseparable pair are in a small, nothing town somewhere in Oregon. With a small wad of precious cash, driving an old car, Wendy is making her way to Alaska to find work and perhaps a new life. Until everything goes wrong.
Reichardt's film, which screens at the New York Film Festival
before a winter engagement at the Film Forum
in New York, is all Michelle Williams. Williams is in every scene and nearly every frame of the film that is slow moving and often without dialogue. Early in the film, Wendy is separated from Lucy after shoplifting a can of dog food. The events that follow make for a minimalist yet epic quest in which the girl searches for her lost dog.
Williams is best-known for her Oscar-nominated performance in Brokeback Mountain, but she has done wonderful work in many small films (Land of Plenty, Me Without You), and she's wonderful, too, in Wendy and Lucy. She gives a vanity-free performance, clad in the same cut off shorts and blue zippered hoodie through the film. Her hair is cut short and she wears no make up. In an eighty-two minute film where little happens, Williams is always interesting to watch.
Lucy in "Wendy and Lucy"Oscilloscope Pictures
The film makes astute observations about poverty in this country, from a monologue about the lack of jobs from an old security guard working the parking lot of a drug store chain, to the bleak reality of Wendy's washing up in a gas station restroom. Reichardt, unfortunately, does not provide her heroine with any back story. Has Wendy gone to college? Has she fallen out with her parents? Does she have parents? Does she suffer from mental illness? Is she simply the adventurous sort, a modern day Beatnik? There's no knowing, and this lack of information makes it difficult to care about Wendy - at least on a gut level. It's easy to admire to Williams' performance, without ever feeling compelled to cry.
Wendy and Lucy
Starring: Walter Dalton, Larry Fessenden, Will Oldham (II), Will Patton, Michelle Williams
Directed by: Kelly Reichardt
Produced by: Joshua Blum, Todd Haynes, Phil Morrison
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