Crossing Over

The drama Crossing Over is a great Melting Pot of a movie, populated by characters and stories that seem to have immigrated from everywhere – here a brooding character study, there a soap opera, in this corner a study of social injustice and even, from out of left field, an unexpected murder mystery.

Harrison Ford stars as Max Brogan, an immigration officer who takes flack from his coworkers for caring too much about the illegals he rounds up in the course of his job. Stung by criticism once too often, he turns his back on a young woman (Alice Braga) who’s terrified that her deportation will result in her little boy ending up on the street.

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May 7, 2009 · Posted in DVD  




In November 2000, 27 African American citizens of the tiny town of Hearne, Texas were swept up by the local police and tossed into jail on charges of dealing crack. Unable to afford bail, most of them spent months behind bars, eventually giving in to pressure from their court-appointed lawyer to escape prison time by pleading guilty to lesser charges. Now convicted felons, they discovered that they’d signed away most of their rights as American citizens, ruining their own lives at the same moment they’d taken that desperate step to save them.

One woman, young single mother Regina Kelly, refused to play that game. Kelly fought the charges, enlisted the aid of the ACLU, and filed suit against the police and the district attorney who’d been conducting similar raids for years in order to bolster their arrest and conviction statistics.

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May 6, 2009 · Posted in Now Playing  





You’d think a story about people barely hanging on by their fingertips to the rudiments of survival would be pretty tough going, but Wendy and Lucy manages to transform its simple tale of not-quite-making-it into one of the most uplifting films in recent memory.

Wendy (Michelle Williams) is a young woman who’s driving from Indiana to Alaska in hopes of scoring a summer job and – more importantly – an escape from her dead-end life back home. Her budget is obsessively calculated and stretched to the last penny, she’s sleeping in her car and getting by on cheap junk food and restroom sponge baths, but she has her beloved dog Lucy for company and no one to answer to but herself. Life could be worse.

…Until she pulls into an unprepossessing little town in Oregon and everything goes to hell.

Her old beater breaks down, and the only garage in sight keeps such 2008_wendy_and_lucy_002eccentric hours that it seems for a while that it’s never open at all. A self-righteous young prig of a grocery clerk catches cash-strapped Wendy shoplifting dog food and has her tossed into the local jail. And when she reluctantly parts with the cash the law requires to get back on the street, she discovers that Lucy has disappeared.

The rest of the film details her search for her dog in this unfriendly little town of sad cinderblock buildings and cookie-cutter chain stores. No one there means her harm; it isn’t that kind of simplistic drama. This down-on-its-luck burg is just where Wendy happens to be when the law of averages catches up to her, and there’s no one around with both the energy and the wherewithal to give her the help she needs.

Director Kelly Reichardt and her co-writer Jonathan Raymond have crafted a film that at first appears unpolished and artless – but it isn’t long before we realize that there’s a high degree of art at work here on an almost subliminal level. Using a near-verite warts-and-all style, for its brief running time (80 minutes), Wendy and Lucy effortlessly drops us into its characters’ lives and reveals all that we need to know about them without ever resorting to traditional expository devices.

As the camera remains with Wendy from beginning to end, most of the other characters are glimpsed only briefly…but the performances are solid throughout. The most fully realized is Wally Dalton’s turn as a sympathetic security guard whose life has been reduced to staring at a deserted parking lot for minimum wage. Recognizing a fellow stray, he gives Wendy someone to talk to and points her in potentially useful directions in her search for Lucy. In the end, though, it’s up to Wendy to chart her own course with the toughest decision she’s ever made.

Williams is a low-key revelation as she wanders from one disaster to the next, alternately forlorn and hopeful, but always determined to keep her chin up and find a way to steer her life back on course. Williams is too attractive to completely vanish into the role of ill-kempt vagabond – on her, the character’s ragged home-made haircut becomes reminiscent of an Audrey Hepburn gamine ‘do – but her acting is flawless and her character one to cherish.

For such a short film, Wendy and Lucy is a lot of things: an exemplary gem of independent filmmaking, a quietly dramatic glimpse of lives that have been put on hold, an unsentimental celebration of hope and endurance…but most important of all, it’s 80 minutes of Michelle Williams letting us into the life of a character who becomes unforgettable by the time the final credits roll.

Rating: R (language) Running Time: 80 minutes

March 31, 2009 · Posted in DVD