On a sunny day in Oregon, a young girl named Wendy (Williams) and her dog Lucy pull into “Anytown U.S.A.” for the night. Wendy and Lucy are on their way to Alaska to start a new life and the mini-mall coated city they stop in for a rest is merely luck of the draw on the freeway of life. Or in Wendy’s case, un-luck of the draw. No sooner has she been awakened in her car by a just-doing-his-job drugstore security guard (Dalton) then her best laid plans of a new life with her dog explode into a million pieces.
Much like Kelly Reichardt’s first feature film “Old Joy,” “Wendy and Lucy” is a very quiet affair where the characters don’t say exactly what’s on their mind. Heck, who really does in real life? Still, a little insight into what’s driving Wendy to Alaska would have been helpful in terms of getting me on her side. While I like the fact “Wendy and Lucy” plays on emotions and sort of… prods you to get what the characters are going through without actually “telling” you what to think, I missed the creepy vibe and undertones she managed to pull off so well in “Old Joy.” It’s never cool to judge a film by it’s predecessor but since the pacing in “Wendy and Lucy” is about the same, I guess I expected more of the same undercurrent.
Then again, “Wendy and Lucy” is a bigger story not only in terms of what the lead character goes through, but also in an allegorical sense. If Wendy were traversing the U.S. say… 30 years earlier, she wouldn’t have nearly the problems she encounters here and all of them are real world issues. For all our perceived looseness, the U.S. is a much more uptight place nowadays than it was a few decades back. Not only in terms of laws and ordinances, but also in terms of people sticking to their guns, doing what they’re told rather than accounting for, you know, the human being factor. Throughout “Wendy and Lucy” I just wanted Wendy to catch a break. And the only break she really needed was for someone to just be nice for a change.
“Wendy and Lucy” is an interesting film that needs the audience to serve as a mirror for Wendy’s travails and emotions. I think most everyone can relate to her in some ways, but if you can’t, this film will leave you cold. Michelle Williams as Wendy is fine but she doesn’t have much to do and her role is much more reactive than proactive. She kind of wanders from one lousy situation to the next and has to react to each new challenge. Unless you’re an antsy movie-goer or have a cold heart, by the end of “Wendy and Lucy,” you’ll be engrossed, hoping for the best possible outcome. But the journey to get there also requires patience and that might be too much to ask of any audience when you arm them with very little to help with the journey.