Friday, May 8, 2009

Review: Wendy and Lucy

Writer/director Kelly Reichardt's third feature length film, Wendy and Lucy (2008), is strange and beautiful. It follows Wendy (Michelle Williams, laconic and make-upless), a 20 something making her way from her home in Indiana to a prospective job in Alaska. Along for the ride in her dying car is her best friend Lucy (played by an affable dog named Lucy). The story opens as they stop for the night in a small suburb of Portland, Oregon. Waking the next morning, Wendy discovers that her car will not start. The nearby auto shop is not open, the local strangers are apathetic, and some bad decisions lead to a missing Lucy.
Reichardt possesses an easy, observational directorial touch. She keeps a tantalizing distance from her subjects, in a way very much like Jim Jarmusch or Charles Burnett. There is something almost voyeuristic in the way we just sit and watch strangers interact in strange and perplexing ways. 
Both set and filmed in suburban Oregon, the film is doubtlessly the work of Northwesterners, evident in the respectful yet passive-aggressive distance people keep from each other, the aching sprawl, and the unrelenting grayness of both the weather and the infrastructure. Wendy and Lucy is a study in stranger apathy, post-American-Dream America, and the time that comes in every person's life when they realize they are truly alone.

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