Who’s In It: Michelle Williams, Will Patton, Will Oldham, Wally Dalton
The Basics: Wendy, down on her luck and driving with her dog Lucy to what she hopes is a better existence (director Kelly Reichardt has referred to this movie as “post-Katrina”), makes a stop in a town in the Pacific Northwest. It’s there that everything falls apart, including her car. In the process she winds up spending time in jail, losing Lucy and desperately trying to find someone who’ll give either of them a break, but what kindness does come is too little, too late. The upside? Oh wait, sorry, there isn’t one.
What’s The Deal: What’s great about director Kelly Reichardt is that she can take nothing and make it something. Her last movie, Old Joy, was about two men friends breaking up with each other while wandering around the woods, barely talking but still managing to make you sad about their relationship’s demise. This sorrowful, minimalist film displays practically every rotten thing about being poor in America without clobbering you over the head with fake salvation or easy solutions. Decency is heartbreakingly trampled by strict, hard-nosed, boot-straps logic and the kind of hippie freedom nostalgia of movies like Easy Rider is quietly blown away like dust. Then there’s all that Old Yeller-ish weeping you’re going to do….
Who’s So Awesome She’ll Probably Be Ignored By The Academy Awards: Michelle Williams. After this, Brokeback Mountain, Synecdoche, New York and I’m Not There, you can count on her to never be known as that girl from Dawson’s Creek again. The dog’s lost, she’s lost, her hope is lost, the country is lost. And she conveys this with the least amount of dialogue possible of any female lead performance this year.
The Film’s Entire Philosophy In One Quick Edit: A close-up shot of a guy in a wheelchair waiting outside of an aluminum can recycling place focuses on a bumper sticker affixed to his chair that reads: “Consume Less, Share More.” You could read that on the back of a busted-up Saab in a Whole Foods parking lot and be annoyed by the unbathed hipster who put it there, but in this movie it feels like the truth.
How To Make Cheap Indie Movies: Cast your own dog (the credits say, “Lucy… as herself.”) in one of the leads, which is apparently what Reichardt did.