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And They Called It Puppy Love

MOVIE REVIEW
Wendy and Lucy (2008)

WENDYANDLUCY2
Simon Max Hill/Oscilloscope Laboratories

“Wendy and Lucy” is the simple story of a girl and her puppy, but it may well be the best girl-and-pup movie ever made. Michelle Williams stars as Wendy, a drifter en route to Alaska whose junkyard car gives out in the middle of Oregon. She manages to get arrested for shoplifting from a grocery store, and upon her release she can no longer locate her pet dog and traveling companion, Lucy. For the remainder of the film, Wendy wanders through small towns and the Oregonian wilderness, trekking across parking lots and railroad tracks in hopes of finding Lucy.

Following the critical success of her 2006 feature “Old Joy,” writer-director Kelly Reichardt strikes again with another minimalist, meditative and yet totally rewarding experience. “Wendy and Lucy” played at the Cannes, Toronto and New York film festivals. Although the small independent production will likely only reach a limited audience, look for Ms. Williams to generate sizable Oscar buzz for her gritty, no-frills performance in this essentially one-woman show. The “Dawson’s Creek” alumnus has been steadily getting supporting roles in movies such as “Brokeback Mountain” and “Synecdoche, New York,” but here she finally has a chance to shine. Perhaps still grieving over the death of ex-husband Heath Ledger, Ms. Williams commands the film with both strength and determination. Her character will stay with you long after the search for Lucy and the movie itself come to an end.

It’s easy to dismiss “Wendy and Lucy” as a chick flick, and indeed it’s a movie about a woman and her dog. But it’s actually more accurate to describe the film as about the dynamics between man (in this case, woman) vs. nature. It’s an existential journey in which the protagonist braves the harsh elements and severe poverty in hopes of reuniting with (wo)man’s best friend. Ms. Reichardt’s previous film “Old Joy” – about two long-time buddies going on a male-bonding camping trip only to discover they have nothing in common after all – was the thinking man’s “Sideways.” And with “Wendy and Lucy,” Ms. Reichardt again gives the guys (and girls) much to mull over. It’s a really simple story, but humanity, companionship and will power aren’t that complicated either.

WENDY AND LUCY

Opens on Dec. 10 in New York and on Feb. 6, 2009 in Britain.

Directed by Kelly Reichardt; written by Ms. Reichardt and Jon Raymond, based on the short story “Train Choir” by Mr. Raymond; director of photography, Sam Levy; edited by Ms. Reichardt and Mike Burchett; music by Will Oldham; produced by Neil Kopp, Anish Savjani and Larry Fessenden; released by Oscilloscope Laboratories. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A.

WITH: Michelle Williams (Wendy), Will Patton (Mechanic), John Robinson (Andy), Will Oldham (Icky), Walter Dalton (Security Guard) and Larry Fessenden (Man in Park).

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