Wendy and Lucy a poignant reality check | AspenTimes.com
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Wendy and Lucy a poignant reality check

Oscilloscope PicturesMichelle Williams stars in Wendy and Lucy, showing this week at the Wheeler Opera House.
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Brace yourselves: Wendy and Lucy, the most hope-deprived movie of recent months, may turn out to be the most accurate reflection of America at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Kelly Reichardts calm, noiseless film does not scream doom; it does not even despair. It depicts a world where people are generally good, capable even of selfless kindness and generosity.It is not enough. Not enough in the face of a staggering lack of money, resources and the things we need, not to indulge ourselves, but just to get us from one day to the next.It is not enough for Wendy Carroll. The 30ish Wendy finds herself stranded in an anonymous Oregon town with precious little: A 20-year-old Honda Accord. A few hundred dollars in cash. Hopes of getting to Alaska, where, maybe, a job in a fish-cannery awaits. A sweet, loyal mutt named Lucy.Strike all that. Wendys resources evaporate more quickly than President Obamas era of post-partisanship. Within two or three days, the Honda is immobile. The cash, kept in a money-belt wrapped around her belly, under two layers of clothing, is dwindling in an effort to get the car moving again. The idea of getting to Alaska on a wheezing auto and a few hundred bucks was more fantasy than asset to begin with. And while Wendy is being processed at the cop shop, for having shoplifted donuts and dog food, Lucy disappears.Wendy, played by a bedraggled but still pretty Michelle Williams, adopts a demeanor that is both stoic and shell-shocked. For the next few days, a few blocks of the declining urban Northwest becomes her turf. She wanders back and forth, past graffiti-filled walls and worn-down homes, between the car repair shop, a gas station restroom, the dog pound and a patch of woods overlooking the train tracks.The most promising patch of land in this new existence is the parking lot of a low-budget variety store. The lot itself is as desolate as the surrounding patches of pavement, but it is where Wendy can count on finding her security guard. The gentleman old, ponytailed, gray, nameless begins their relationship by kicking Wendy off the premises. Soon enough, he becomes her beacon of humanity. The guard, played by the veteran TV actor/writer Wally Dalton, has nothing else to do; the lot is invariably empty. He guides her around the neighborhood, lends her his cell phone, comforts her. In one of the films more gut-wrenching moments, he presses some bills into Wendys hand, tells her not to argue, and not to tell his wife. Wendy opens her hand: It appears to be seven dollars. As noted, it is not enough.Reichardt may be the perfect director to deal with such a sad, small story. She made her name with Old Joy, which was not quite as sad, but even slighter in plot and sound. With Wendy and Lucy, she retains a masterful grasp on tone and setting while widening the landscape with character and relationships.Meanwhile, theres Lucy. I will reveal that she doesnt get hit by a car; that would be way too much action for a Reichardt movie. And much too obvious. Lucys fate and Wendys is more thought-provoking. Lets just hope it doesnt become a defining issue of these times.

Wendy and Lucy shows Friday and Saturday, March 20-21, at the Wheeler Opera House.stewart@aspentimes.com


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