Monday, September 08, 2008

Wendy and Lucy

Kelly Reichardt | 2008 | 80 min | US

This is a contemporary American take on the British Kitchen Sink movies of the late fifties and early sixties. And it is terrific. Michelle Williams is Wendy, a young woman traveling to Alaska for work with her dog, Lucy. Wendy and Lucy catches up with the pair during a stop-over of a few days in Oregan. Already very close to being penniless, when Wendy's car breaks down she finds all of her plans suddenly jeopardized.

It is a very quiet, thoughtful film. So quiet, in fact, that director Kelly Reichardt chastised someone in the crowd for bringing in nachos while she was standing on stage for the movie's intro. And rightfully so. I swear I heard every nacho enjoyed within three rows of me. The sound design is so slight as to barely even qualify as "minimal." Aside from a moment of ambient music in a supermarket, the soundtrack only consists of Wendy occasionally humming the same refrain, over and over, and the noise of freight trains chugging by. The quiet poetry of the movie is beautiful, though this is not quite an uplifting story. Ten minutes in I was definitely wondering if this was the best screening choice I could have made given my current tenuous financial position. Ahem.

Wendy and Lucy is unflinching in its look at how many, many people are living today: paycheck to paycheck, without any security, and constantly on the brink of real danger. It is moving and beautiful in its stark realism.

And Will Oldham fans: keep your eyes peeled for his hilarious bit part.

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