Williams plays the distraught Wendy, who finds herself desperately searching for her dog Lucy in a small town in suburban Portland, Oregon. Her shabby clothing, ramshackle hygiene procedures and ruffled bob of emo-black hair designate her as part of a burgeoning class of nomadic neo-hippies and wanderers, but she has ambition, yearning for a job and a warm place to come home to. Early on, Wendy -- on the run from something, we never know exactly what -- encounters a pack of fellow drifters -- Joy's Will Oldham naturally plays the alpha named Icky -- who point her towards fishery jobs in Alaska. She begins to count her money and things look OK, but then she is busted for stealing dog food from a local supermarket, an act that sets off a set of relatively minor but nevertheless tragic happenings that keep Wendy from leaving Portland and drain her wallet.
While the plot preoccupies itself with Lucy's disappearance while Wendy is detained for the shoplifting, the movie is primarily interested in movement. Without home or support (a phone call home provides knowledge of a family of strapped suburbanites), Wendy is constantly being displaced from her makeshift abodes, whether from her busted car or from a cardboard bed in a local park where she is deeply frightened by a local lunatic (Larry Fessenden). And yet she can't seem to actually get anywhere.
Though it carries a certain feel for the cinema of the 1960s, Wendy and Lucy is intrinsically tied to more modern tent poles, primarily the current economy. We are left to wonder whether Wendy finds less tragic ends than that other Alaska-bound gadabout in Into the Wild, but she actually shares more with the down-and-out prospectors of John Ford's immortal The Grapes of Wrath. Alone with only a Walgreens security guard's (Walter Dalton) cell phone for communication, Wendy is a symbol of youth that no longer travels the country in search of spirituality and introspection but rather has to scour the national landscape for a decent wage.
Reichardt's film demands that Wendy be a subtle but piercing presence, reticent yet commanding. In the past few years, Williams has buried her Dawson's Creek days and rebuilt herself as a staple of more adventurous fare, appearing both in last year's wildly brilliant I'm Not There and this year's stampeding phantasmagoria Synecdoche, New York. More endemic to her work in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, Williams underplays and internalizes much of the action in Lucy, making a terrified tantrum in a gas station bathroom all the more bewildering and bracing. Williams is as graceful as she is elemental and gives, by a large margin, the best American female performance I've seen this year.
Lil' bow wow.
Run time: 80 mins
In Theaters: Friday 6th March 2009
Box Office USA: $0.7M
Budget: $200 thousand
Distributed by: Oscilloscope Pictures
Production compaines: Washington Square Films, Field Guide Films, Film Science, Glass Eye Pix
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 128 Rotten: 22
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Producer: Neil Kopp, Anish Savjani, Larry Fessenden
Screenwriter: Kelly Reichardt, Jon Raymond