Hot tickets: Michelle Williams shines in Wendy and Lucy
Wendy and Lucy, directed by Kelly Reichardt and co-produced by Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, I’m Not There), is a streamlined and atmospheric film about the separation of two companions, both dependent on each other and at the edge of destitution. This may sound more bombastic than the film actually is, but what amounts is intensely identifiable: Wendy and Lucy is the story of a woman who has lost her dog.
Michelle Williams (2006 Oscar-nominated for her supporting role in Brokeback Mountain), not a scene shot without her, gives an even-keeled performance as Wendy, a young woman in search of work in the canneries of Alaska. Wendy’s plan is slipshot at best: homeless and jobless, she finds her way just outside of Portland, Oregon before her car finally gives out on her. The story of Wendy and Lucy, however, has less to do with Wendy’s economic predicament (she keeps a sharp eye on the $500 left to her name) than it does the sort of feedback-loop odyssey she finds herself in. When arrested after shoplifting a can of food for her dog, Wendy becomes separated from Lucy (with a memorable, heartbreaking shot through the back windshield of the police car, Lucy tied to a bike rack and faithfully waiting at the door of the supermarket); from this point, Wendy is caught in suburban blue-collar purgatory without anywhere to go, in hopes that Lucy is still somewhere nearby.
The bulk of the movie is quietly harrowing, entreating the viewer into Wendy’s predicament; not a pet-lover (or otherwise) could leave this movie without feeling Wendy’s loss and translating it to oneself. With her companion gone, Wendy is both stranded and lost (emotionally, spiritually), with few friends to rely on. The film is sparsely populated with characters; homeless drifters, mechanics, even a security guard in the parking lot of a Walgreen’s prove to be both hurtful and helpful to Wendy; ultimately, her plight to find Lucy is left square on her shoulders. What amounts may not resolve completely in terms of story, but the film is almost hyper-conscious of this fact: down to its bones, this is an atmospheric, behavioral film rather than one that adheres to Aristotelian rules of story and structure.
Director Reichardt came to the Film Society of Lincoln Center and spoke with the audience a bit about her film. Wendy and Lucy is based on the short story “Train Choir” by Portland-native Jonathan Raymond (whose work Reichardt had previously drawn from for her film Old Joy), shot over 20 days on location around Portland, and self-edited in her apartment in New York City. Reichardt’s vision of Wendy translates to film quite well, and she proves herself to be a director of startling control in crafting Wendy’s awareness of the day-to-day, veering away from the “big picture” because, in the end, Wendy can’t afford to cast her net so wide.
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