WENDY AND LUCY
(Kelly Reichardt, US, 2008, 80 mins.)
If a person can't afford dog food, then they shouldn't have a dog.
-- A grocery clerk sets Wendy straight
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Once upon a time, the great character actor L.Q. Jones (The Wild Bunch, The Ballad
of Cable Hogue) directed a little post-apocalyptic picture called A Boy and His Dog. To some, it's best known because Jones directed it. To others, it's best known because Don Johnson starred in it. Either way, the title has a pleasingly matter-of-fact ring.
The same could be said about the third film from Old Joy's Kelly Reichardt. Wendy (Michelle Williams) may not be living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, like the dog lovers in A Boy or I Am Legend, but her situation isn't that much different from the homeless father and son in Cormac McCarthy's The Road (coming to the big screen later this year). All these duos have is each other. All Wendy has is her dog, Lucy.
A boy, a dog, and his dishrag (1975)
When she first comes into view, Wendy is romping with Lucy in the Oregon
woods as her humming permeates the soundtrack. In most movies, young
person plus canine companion = good times. Wendy, as it turns out, is
driving to Alaska to work in a cannery. Except for the golden retriever,
she could be cinematic sister to Emile Hirsch's vagabond in Into the
Wild as she's also traveled some distance to get to the Northwest,
but she doesn't connect with other people the way he does. A
glimpse at her notebook indicates that she originated in
Nebraska or passed through it on the way to the West
Coast. And that she's running out of money.
When her car won't start and the dog food runs out, it's clear that a world of hurt awaits. Yes, Wendy and Lucy is that kind of movie: the kind where the protagon-
ist's situation goes from bad to worse before ending somewhere more enigmatic.
As in Old Joy, Reichardt makes Wendy's trip into disappointment and diminish-
ed expectations one worth taking. Vittorio di Sica did the same in Bicycle Thieves
and Umberto D., the story of an old man and his dog, but it's tricky territory to navigate. And when Wendy breaks the law to provide for Lucy, the fix is in.
Part two to come...
Lucy (the director's dog)
Wendy and Lucy opens at the Varsity Theater on Fri., 1/23. The Varsity is located at 4329 University Way NE. For more information, please call 206-781-5755. As with Old Joy, Reichardt adapted the script from author/co-writer Jon Raymond's collection Liv-
ability (the original story is called "Train Choir"). Images from The Auteurs Notebook, Rotten Tomatoes (click the link for Jones interview), and Oscilloscope Labratories, the new distribution company formed by Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys.