Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wendy and Lucy (2008)

I expected a quiet, small budget independent film from Wendy and Lucy--a slow movie with decent acting but lacking an arc. It turned out to be a Herculean effort made possible by Michelle Williams' Wendy, lovely Lucy and excellent directing.

Protagonist Wendy is on her way from Muncie, Indiana, to Lu and WendyAlaska--Ketchikan specifically. She's hoping to secure a job at a fishery. You sense she's after something more that making money--a fresh start perhaps, a connection? She's got her stash of cash, her belongings and her beloved hound, Lucy, packed in her Honda Accord. In Portland, Oregon, Wendy and Lucy are caught sleeping in the car in a parking lot. As she tries to start the car and move it off the lot, she cannot turn over the engine. The security guard, (Wally Dalton) helps her push the car out. This sets off a downward trajectory that stands to derail Wendy's plan to get herself and Lucy to Alaska. Her family offers no support or sympathy. When Wendy makes a desperate, short-sighted move and is caught, Lucy disappears and Wendy has to find her. Based on a short story by Jonathan Raymond (who also wrote the screenplay), you read much in Wendy's face despite the fact she's mostly stoic. (The gal can act.)

This movie is about a journey, not simply a road-trip. It's about determination and how strangers impact you with kindness in surprising ways. It's also about pets, their unconditional love and the bond with their owners. The tiny cast plays well together. The security guard is endearing. The mechanic (Will Patton) you wonder about. Lucy the dog steals a lot of the show. Makes me revisit the topic of the underrated dog acting. (One of the best dog acting jobs was that of Sam the German Shepherd in I Am Legend.) The Oscars should add a Best Acting by an Animal or Dog category. Check out this entertaining piece, The Old Yeller Award for Best Canine Performances. Enjoy!

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Country: US

Genre: Drama

Run time:  78 minutes

Scale: 4.5

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