Kelly Reichardt's acclaimed little indie Wendy and Lucy (review here) ended its run at the Varsity yesterday. After opening on Jan. 23, it was only scheduled for a week's engagement. I was surprised, not having seen it yet, that it ran for another two weeks. A small film with only one recognizable name (Michelle Williams), it made many critics' ten-best lists. (Here's our roundup.) Moreover, as some noted when it opened in New York and L.A. last year, the movie is fairly depressing and unenventful, neorealism in Portland, if you will. But having finally seen Wendy this week, I'm glad that Northwest Film Forum is giving it a few more days (Fri. through Tues.) for other tardy viewers. Full details after the jump, and a few thoughts on why Wendy now makes for a kind of recession companion to Slumdog Millionaire...
For the next two or three days, Williams loses her dog, her car breaks down, and she suffers other setbacks--no spoilers--that gradually deplete the $500 stake she hopes will get her from Indiana to a cannery job in Alaska. (Her road map itinerary, carefully marked in yellow highlighter, would take her through Seattle.) Amid the ugly parking lots, strip malls, peeling-paint houses of a former mill town, she goes from being on society's lower rungs to having no rungs beneath her feet at all.
Some have complained that Wendy is the kind of movie where not a lot happens. In plot terms, no. No car chases or gun fights. No boyfriends or passionate romance. Most of the film is resolutely ordinary: Wendy shopping, looking for her dog, schlepping around by foot and taking the bus. (How many movies actually put their heroes or heroines on public transportation? And don't say Speed.) What is happening, and the terror only once seizes Wendy in the restroom of a gas station, is that she is being steadily, insidiously reduced to nothing: no fixed address, no car, no phone, no dog, and (soon) no money.
It's Slumdog Millionaire (review) in reverse. The hero of that film, sure to be voted Best Picture at the Oscars next weekend, reaches up from the gutter, attaining riches and love through his pluck and intelligence on a game show. No wonder everyone loves the film. Its reputation has only been widening (beyond New York, beyond L.A.) with the worsening economy. Slumdog defies the times we're living in; Wendy embodies them.
No surprise then that Wendy isn't up for any Oscars. (Though Williams' late boyfriend, Heath Ledger, is; and she may accept the seemingly inevitable Dark Knight award on his behalf.) But there's always the Independent Spirit Awards (Sat. Feb. 21, the day before the Oscars, on IFC) and DVD (May 5).
Full details: Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 267-5380. 7 and 9 p.m. Fri. Feb. 13-Tues. Feb. 17; plus 5 p.m. shows Sat. and Sun. Tickets: $5-8.