Wendy and Lucy

Wendy and Lucy ★★★½

Part of my 5 Directors x 5 Unseen Films (8) challenge.

Before Michele Williams became an Oscar nominee for her breakthrough performance in "Brokeback Mountain" (2005), she gained acting experience in the world of independent films. To her great credit, she didn't forget her roots as she gained stardom and continued to make herself available for choice parts in indies such as this one by director Kelly Reichardt.

The film, based on Jon Raymond's 2004 short story entitled "Night Choir," follows the hard-luck exploits of a woman named Wendy (Williams) and her dog Lucy (herself), as they embark on a journey by car from Indiana to Alaska and a potentially lucrative summer job. But then she has car trouble in Oregon and gets arrested for shoplifting dog food. One bad break after another thwarts her grand plan, landing Wendy in dire economic straits ... and then Lucy goes missing.

Others in the cast include Will Oldham and Tanya Smith from Reichardt's previous feature "Old Joy" (2006) plus Larry Fessenden from her "River of Grass" (1994). There's character actor Wally Salton as a drugstore security guard and veteran Will Patton as a mechanic, while John Robinson, notable for his feature debut in Gus Van Sant's "Elephant" (2003), appears as the grocery store assistant manager Andy.

I must say Williams is virtually unrecognizable in this role, with scruffy brunette hair and no makeup. In fact, Reichardt reportedly thought she was too pretty for the part and asked her to deliberately not wash her hair, shave her legs or clean her nails. Nevertheless, the actress delivers a very convincing, if depressingly sad performance as she searches for her lost dog and makes some hard choices as she deals with each blow that reality metes out.

Film #26 among my 52 Films by Women 2016

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