Review: Wendy and Lucy
PLOT: On her way to Alaska to start a new life, a woman and her dog end up in a small town where nothing seems to go their way. After getting caught shoplifting, she is separated from her pup, who she left outside tied to a bike rack. Once she is finally released and she returns to the store, her loyal companion is gone. She is soon searching desperately for her dog, and she finds herself faced with some very difficult decisions.
I remember watching MARLEY & ME recently and truthfully, it was very touching on a certain level. It was a slight comedy that had relied heavily on the old heart tugging. But even with Marleyís two hankey ending, it was not even close to the emotional impact of another dog and master flick. Michelle Williams stars in WENDY AND LUCY as a woman living out of her car heading towards a hopeful new start in Alaska. It is her, her unreliable car and the best friend that she ever had, her dog Lucy. When Wendy arrives in a small town and her car breaks down, she must figure out a way to feed her beloved pooch and get her automobile up and running. She meets a local security guard (Wally Dalton) who helps her out a bit by letting her know the area. And being that she is low on funds, bad things happen after she ties Lucy outside to a bike rack in front of the local grocery store with the intention of making a few purchases without actually paying. After this desperate, but bad decision, things go from bad to worse.
Director and co-writer Kelly Reichardt has taken a very simple story and turned it into a pretty compelling film. While not a lot happens throughout it is still a potent little film as Wendy spends much of the time looking for a lost dog. But Reichardt and cinematographer Sam Levy paint a very bleak picture. And it encompasses the story nicely as it feels as if you are right there watching this poor woman try and find a way to survive without letting go of her best friend. All of this is told through the eyes of a girl who is flawed, frail and looking for some sort of redemption. I am always appreciative when a film allows its main character to be human and prone to falter. Williams Wendy makes a few bad choices throughout, but they also seem very truthful in the context of the story, and that makes for a much more complex character.
And speaking of Williams, Iíve always thought she was a good actress. In fact, her work in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is absolutely wonderful. Yet here, she completely disappears into this role and is barely recognizable. Her short, black hair and her tomboyish clothes really add to this desperate and lonely performance. It is not an easy feat to spend much of the time calling out for a lost dog and still have the ability to find the texture underneath this character. I also really appreciated her work opposite Wally Dalton. The film makes a wonderful choice to not seep into sentimentality as this security guard offers his help as much as he can and she accepts. Both of these performances are terrific, and I found it much more interesting to not have the big, emotional farewell between the two. Wendy and Lucy after all, is not about the big emotional moments, it is about the small and sometimes painful ones.
I also have to credit Larry Fessenden (a fascinating actor/director himself) as a possibly homeless fellow that comes across Wendy. It is a very unsettling scene which is in many ways, just as terrifying as your average thriller. Donít get me wrong, he isnít chasing her around in the dark with a machete, but he is pretty creepy here. But what she is going through is terrifying, and it is a scary thought to not know if and when you are going to make it to your destination. And especially to feel that helplessness of not being able to care for someone that you love. All of this leads to an ending which is truly heartbreaking, with a strong show by not only Michelle, but by Lucy the dog. While I donít see this as being any sort of box office hit, I do think that it is refreshing to see something so simple and so eloquent that it is not trying to compete for that opening weekend gold. My rating 8/10 -- JimmyO