Kelly Reichardt has always been a filmmaker engaged with the harsh realities of economic struggle in America. Her dryly funny debut, River of Grass, and the superb Old Joy are both thematically potent, socially conscious cinema, but they're also distinguished by indelible characters, mordant wit, and memorable images. While Wendy and Lucy, her third theatrical feature, has much to recommend it, it does not achieve those cinematic heights. Reichardt and cinematographer Sam Levy capture the decay of rail yards and industrial malls with typical visual acuity, and interesting characters populate the margins of the film. Will Oldham, who starred in Old Joy, makes a brief but vivid appearance, and Will Patton adds a welcome jolt of energy late in the film. But Wendy, the film's main character -- reticent and retiring, a wounded woman who clearly just wants to be left alone and complete her journey to Alaska -- is simply not as singular a character as one would hope, based on the previous work of both the director and the film's talented star, Michelle Williams. Williams delivers an affecting performance, but Wendy never really comes into focus. As her woes pile up, we feel sorry for her, but she never generates the same type of fascination that Kurt in Old Joy and Cozy in River of Grass did. Reichardt is such a canny filmmaker that one could almost believe that she intentionally leaves Wendy underwritten and a bit of a cipher, because Wendy is far more effective as a bold-faced symbol of the downtrodden than as a fully realized human character. Coming from any other filmmaker, Wendy and Lucy's relatively clear-eyed and unsentimental tale of woe might be considered a minor triumph, but from one of Reichardt's unique talents, it is something of a letdown.
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- Released: 2008
- Rating: R
- Review: Kelly Reichardt has always been a filmmaker engaged with the harsh realities of economic struggle in America. Her dryly funny debut, River of Grass, and the superb Old Joy are both thematically potent, socially conscious cinema, but they're also distinguis… (more)