Delayed Reaction: ‘Wendy and Lucy’

Promotional image, 2008

I finally watched Wendy and Lucy (2008), the festival darling about a young woman (Michelle Williams) who’s making her way to Alaska with her dog (the Lucy of the pair) in hopes of starting anew. Directed by indie director Kelly Reichardt, the film feels like a drama made by and for hipsters. It’s methodically slow-paced; and though there are obstacles once Wendy becomes stranded in the middle of Oregon, the movie is ultimately uneventful.

Critics and audiences seem to have mixed reviews of this quiet independent film, which traveled the film festival circuit until it landed in theaters as a limited release. Apparently, you either think it’s subtly brilliant or overrated.

My thoughts? I’m leaning more towards the “overrated” category of opinion. I’m not sure, but maybe you really have to love dogs in order to become enthralled with this storyline – which is really just about Wendy trying to recover her missing pet in Oregon.

There are undertones of American poverty and homeless or nomadic youth, but they don’t seem to come through enough to the point where you can call it “powerful.” Williams’ acting comes off as a forced calm or lethargy. The plot is simple, which could work in its favor, but it really dragged on for me.

Overall, I just couldn’t get into the film. I admire its delicacy in its simplicity, but it wasn’t executed in a way that was engrossing or interesting for me.

And it’s an unfair comparison, but I’m going to have to do it: Wendy and Lucy was no Umberto D.