Friday, 6 February 2009

Michelle Williams is Brilliantly Understated in WENDY and LUCY--Opens Feb. 6th in Toronto, Feb. 13th in Vancouver

If you listen to my show on a regular basis then you know I am not a fan of the film Rachel Getting Married nor Anne Hathaway's showy performance as a recovering drug addict. Hathaway has received an Academy Award nomination for in the Lead Actress category, but I feel that Michelle Williams should have been the one nominated. Williams is absolutely flawless in Wendy and Lucy, the story of a young woman who's car breaks down on her way to Alaska. Stuck in a small Oregon town until her car is repaired, Wendy (Williams) and her dog Lucy cope with hunger and dwindling funds as they interact with a few of the town's citizens--some nicer than others.

Director, Kelly Reichardt documents Wendy and Lucy's situation in a minimalist, realistic manner that relies heavily on Williams, whose style of acting appears effortless. I tried to look for the "acting" but I never once saw it (even in documentaries the subjects can sometimes seem too aware of the camera).

Filmmakers of the silent era would have loved to have Williams' face in their lens. Her eyes break your heart and you sit in the theatre trying to project courage her way. Of course, you're not able to help her, but you can't help trying to channel her some good fortune--that's what Williams' performance evokes in those of us who appreciate this type of filmmaking.

I also enjoyed the small supporting cast, especially actor Walter Dalton, who plays a store security guard. It is Dalton's character with whom Williams shares the most screen time, and it is through him that we learn that the town is experiencing an economic downturn.

This is not a film that has wide appeal. Not everyone can sit through a film that plays like a silent film and is about one particular moment in someone's life. Those who like their films complete with explanations will also not ejoy filling in the deliberate gaps in the plot. We hear Wendy's sister through a pay telephone, but we never see her and we have to fill in the blanks of what their relationship is like and why Wendy would go all the way to Alaska at the prospect of a job.

She won't get an Oscar (she was nominated for Broke Back Mountain), but Michelle Williams did win the Toronto Film Critics Association's award for Best Actress and Wendy and Lucy garnered the Best Picture honour. The TFCA also gave awards to Rachel Getting Married. If you have seen both pictures please post a comment.

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