Tag Archives: John Robinson

Wendy and Lucy (2008)

This movie is not for everyone. Curious art-indie buffs, you know who you are. Others, look elsewhere. “Wendy and Lucy” is ‘real’ in such a way that it will delight a certain audience and bore the pants off everyone else.

Drifter Wendy (Michelle Williams,) camping out in Oregon on her way to find work in Alaska, travels alone except for her beloved dog, Lucy. So when Lucy goes missing in a small podunk Oregon town, Wendy vows not to leave until she finds her best friend and traveling companion.

Invested in her plight is a kind, otherwise unnamed Security Guard (Wally Dalton) who doesn’t seem to do much work but instead gives her advice and comfort while she tries to find her dog. Wendy comes into contact with other people, some helpful, some detrimental, and in the end must make a painful and difficult choice.

Although the grainy imagery can be a little frustrating, “Wendy and Lucy” is a touching, and above all, real little tale. It’s the kind of film that doesn’t have a hook, but wins us over with it’s true-to-life characters and situations, and makes us wonder what’s going to happen.

Michelle Williams is extremely convincing as flawed protagonist Wendy, and Lucy is a very cute and charming canine. This is the kind of movie people will argue has no ‘point.’ Since when does a film have to have a lesson, a glossy twist ending, or an revelation at before the end credits?

Isn’t a depiction of real, believable people and honest plot developments enough to to keep the audience watching? Since when did we become a legion of people who need a robot, a superhero, farting animated animals, or a masked killer to keep us invested in a story? Maybe I sound pretentious. But I can’t help but wonder if peoples’ interest in the movies is regressing.

I’ve seen Michelle Williams in two movies recently. “Take This Waltz” had its moments, but was also often glib and sitcom-ish, despite a painfully effective ending. “Wendy and Lucy,” the more effective of the two films, was never unbelievable and never simplistic, a testament to the power of kitchen sink realism in film.

“Wendy and Lucy” also excels in the way that it portrays poverty without the morbid vision of filth and decay many movies strive for. Overall, it’s more “Winter’s Bone” than “Requiem for a Dream,” and delivers pathos and sympathy rather than cheap shocks.

Not that it doesn’t have tense moments, such as when Wendy sleeps in the woods and comes face to face with an unexpected intruder. It just doesn’t overplay its hand trying to be disgusting and gratuitous, and portraying Williams as a wretched drifting waif. I hope you see it.

Rating-
8.0/10

Elephant (2003)

“Elephant” is an interesting experiment, which could benefit from some editing and stronger acting. The ambiguity that surrounds the motivations of the killers is a frustrating, but perhaps relevant, critique of the shroud of confusion that surrounded the Columbine killings. 

   Parents, teachers, bullies, and the media were all held under scrutiny, and many school shootings later, we’re still holding candles in the dark as to what motivates these kids to kill their peers- and themselves- in a time that seems rich with possibility.

    The film is presented in a series of vignettes of students habitating a generic high school on the day of a Columbine-like massacre. Using nonprofessional actors and a handheld camera, the film recounts the a day in the kid’s lives- for many, their last- slowly following them around the school as they interact with their teachers and each other.

   The stand-out actors here are Alex Frost, as Alex, the apparent leader in the duo of shooters, and  Matt Malloy as Mr. Luce, the apathetic principal. Most of the acting (unsurprisingly, considering the inexperience of the cast) is rather stiff and listless, while attempting to be ‘real’ and ‘natural.’ The stillness of the performances are rather confusing considering the extreme nature of the subject matter.

   The characters are relatively interesting, not worth falling in love with but worth observing and studying. The most compelling character for me was Michelle (Kristen Hicks) a geeky student who deals with the bullying of her peers and the apathy of her teachers. Self-conscious of her legs, Michelle is told to tough it out and forced to wear shorts by an uncaring gym teacher.

   The kids’ individual dramas are made obsolete, a least for a little while, by the bigger drama of the shooting. This film is SLOW. 20% of the film is spent following the students, watching the back of their heads with intent interest. I would not recommend this movie to people who like fast-paced cinema. To people who are tolerant of slowness and stillness, I would not necessarily recommend it either. 

   “Elephant” is more an experiment than a full-fledged feature, and people out for entertainment should just forget it. But what do you expect with a Gus Van Sant indie movie about a school shooting? Sicko (cough.) Anyway, I feel pretty neutral about the feature as a whole. Some people might find it to be a film-student’s dream, others will be bored silly. Though I may dismiss it, I will not forget it either.