Kelly Reichardt's last movie, Old Joy, is the kind of flukish indie hit that turns its director into a legend. That's probably why almost everything about Reichardt's new film, Wendy and Lucy, is reminiscent of Old Joy. It's got the same Oregon setting, the same thoughtful—or glacial, depending on your attention span—pacing, it's also adapted from a beautiful Jon Raymond short story. Will Oldham appears in this film, too, albeit this time in a brief scene as a hobo with facial tattoos who tells interesting stories in a profoundly uninteresting way.
The basic story: A young woman named Wendy (Michelle Williams, tentative and strong and just about perfect) is traveling to Alaska for a good-paying job in the fishing industry and becomes trapped in Oregon when her car breaks down. She promptly loses her beloved dog, Lucy, and spends the rest of the movie trying to find her. But Reichardt's movies are clearly not about plot. (Old Joy's story: Two friends go camping.) They're more like movie-length meditations on a particular feeling—this is a film about the first time you realize you are completely and utterly on your own.
It's a worthy attempt, but parts of Wendy and Lucy feel oddly insincere. Though Wendy—clearly not the type of person to go all in for hygiene—wears shorts for the several days depicted in the film, for instance, her legs remain decidedly unhairy. Little details throughout Wendy and Lucy fail to maintain the cohesive truth of the film: In one scene, Wendy sleeps in her car with the door obviously unlocked, which is something the character would never do. For a director who so obviously believes that little things mean everything, the carelessness on display in Wendy and Lucy makes the movie feel more like a generic Hollywood product than you'd expect from Reichardt.