I never watched "Dawson's Creek," but I've always viewed Michelle Williams as nothing more than "one of those girls from that show." In other words, I've never thought of her as anything but a WB teen star, despite her roles in such films as Brokeback Mountain and I'm Not There. But, in the same year that former flame Heath Ledger stole the show with his death and subsequent post-mortem Oscar win, Williams proved that she is a formidable actress with the low-key drama Wendy and Lucy.
There's not a lot to Wendy and Lucy, at least in regards to plot. A poor young woman, on her way to Alaska for a summer job with her trusty job, finds herself trapped in a small, depressing town when her car breaks down, forcing her to spend the last of her cash to fix it. In the process, she loses Lucy and spends the rest of the movie looking for the dog.
Wendy and Lucy, from co-writer and director Kelly Reichardt, is an interesting little movie that might not leave a lasting impression but does a good job of telling a very basic, probably story. The movie plays like a snapshot of this woman's life, and though we know little about her back story, we care for her almost immediately. She's innocent and harmless, and yet knows how to get herself into trouble in a hurry.
The screenplay, which is also written by Jonathan Raymond, is a good one, though it's Williams who singlehandedly supports the film. Reichardt wisely does little to dramatize the picture, leaving it to Williams to evoke emotion with her performance. Williams is superb, though it's understandable why her understated performance went unnoticed come Oscar time.
Wendy and Lucy is an effective indie drama with strong acting and a believable story. It's not for everyone, but it's one of the better movies of 2008.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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