Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wendy and Lucy

My review of Wendy and Lucy appears in this week's WE.

Starring Michelle Williams
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
4 stars (out of 5)

By Andrea Warner
The string of horrible Hollywood flicks boasting talking dogs with interior voices provided by celebrities (see Beverly Hills Chihauha — actually, don’t) has created four-legged fatigue among many moviegoers. But our furry friends get a second chance to be worthy co-stars in Kelly Reichardt’s evocative and emotionally devastating Wendy and Lucy.

Wendy (a superb Michelle Williams) is a loner in her early twenties, living in her car with her dog, Lucy, en route from Indiana to Alaska in search of a summer job that promises big bucks. It’s a dream that stays just out of reach when Wendy’s car breaks down in a small, rundown town in Oregon, and then Lucy disappears, sending Wendy’s life into a tailspin.

Writer-director Reichardt is an expert in crafting unsettling films that double as quiet character studies, as demonstrated in the 2006 gem Old Joy. Nor does she doesn’t any easy answers here about why Wendy is the way she is. Small moments, like a desperate phone call home or Wendy’s tentative friendship with a security guard, hint at some of her invisible fractures, but we never really understand why she’s gone so far adrift.

Wendy and Lucy is also a bleak foreshadowing of the economic mess in which we’re all mired, where jobs are few and far between, and a series of simple events can prevent upward momentum. (Wendy doesn’t have an address because she lives in her car, and she can’t afford a cellphone, making finding Lucy, much less a job, virtually impossible.)

There’s nary a talking dog in the whole film, but every moment between Wendy and Lucy speaks volumes.

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