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Wendy and Lucy Review


RATING:
(3 STARS)

Featuring an eye-opening performance from Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy is one of 2008’s underseen gems. With minimal plot, the film manages to touch on a number of personal issues such as isolation, desperation, and companionship. And unlike many films, it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. At a slim 75 minutes, director Kelly Reichart knows her story is lean, and she doesn’t feel the need to add unnecessary filler. It plays out appropriately and goes off into the sunset.

When Wendy’s (Williams) car breaks down in an unfamiliar Oregon town, she’s unsure whether or not she will be able to complete her long journey from Indiana to Alaska. She has very little money, not even enough to properly feed her dog and only companion, Lucy. When she attempts to steal some dog food from the local grocery store, she is arrested. While in jail, Lucy goes missing, and Wendy goes on a desperate hunt to find her. A security guard (Wally Dalton) takes to her and tries to help her. But Wendy is all alone, and between her car troubles and Lucy, she is going to have to make some sacrifices if she is going to make it to Alaska.

This is Michelle Williams’ film. She effectively “de-glams” herself to look very boyish, with short hair, no makeup, and unflattering clothing. She’s almost unrecognizable. Going beyond the way she looks, though, Williams’ performance is still tremendous. The best way I could describe it is to say Wendy, as she plays her, is very real. She’s lost, in more ways then one, and doesn’t really know what to do. She does a lot with her eyes, showing Wendy’s isolation, as well as her guarded nature. Still, she’s vulnerable and also very driven to make it to her destination. As simple as the plot may seem, Williams’ performance is anything but.

Even more astonishing is the fact that Williams has almost nobody to interact with. The most prominent supporting role belongs to Wally Dalton, who sympathizes with Wendy and wants to help her. Will Patton is in a few scenes to offer Wendy some bad news. But perhaps the most important supporting role is that of Lucy, the motivating factor for Wendy’s actions.

Writer/director Kelly Reichardt does a solid job in both departments. She uses Wendy’s struggle to find Lucy as a metaphor for Wendy’s own plight. Lucy is Wendy’s last link to her old life in Indiana, a life she still clings to despite her hardened exterior. She wants to make it to Alaska, and her final action forces her to choose her old life or her new one. Reichardt’s writing, along with Jonathan Raymond, is understated, as is her direction. Nothing in this film feels contrived, nor does it feel like it is being shoved down our throats.

But the real reason to see this film is Williams. As she did in Brokeback Mountain, she proves she is one of her generation’s finest actresses. This film was a little too small for her to be noticed, but with the right project, I think she’ll find herself standing on the Kodak stage in the near future, thanking the members of the Academy.

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