Wendy And Lucy (Oscilliscope)

2008, Rated R

May 13, 2009 at 2:06 pm

It’s tempting to label this melancholy wisp of a film as a wake-up call for a nation gone bankrupt (in more ways than one). But Wendy and Lucy is far too subtle for that: It makes Marley and Me look like Porky’s. Kelly Reichardt’s follow-up to the excellent Old Joy tells the simple story of a girl, Wendy (Michelle Williams, whose compelling, vanity-free performance is the film’s glue), and her dog, Lucy (Reichardt’s own dog). With the help of an old Honda Accord, the duo is making its way to Ketchikan, Alaska, where Wendy hopes to find work at a fishing cannery. But things don’t go as planned. The Honda breaks down in a small Oregon town, which leads to a series of seemingly minor events that put Wendy (and Lucy) in a precarious position — she has only $500 to her name, no credit cards and no permanent address. Worse — based on a vague phone call to her sister that is rife with subtext — her family doesn’t provide a safety net either. Reichardt uses this spare narrative setup and her ultra-low-budget, minimalist filmmaking aesthetic to maximum effect. Wendy and Lucy is full of sequences most movies would disregard as less than filler. Reichardt sees something almost reverential in the rhythms of everyday life. The often harrowing results of economic hardship on the fringes of American society and the glimmer of hope many have in transcending such troubled existences have rarely been done with the kind authenticity and sensitivity found in this ambiguous film about a girl and her dog. In typically thoughtful Reichardt fashion, the DVD release forgoes usual extras in favor of presenting various short works by filmmakers that have influenced and/or nurtured her own singular style. Grade: A