Wanda lives in a tore-up coal town, arrives late to her own divorce and says he should take the kids, then she’s told she is too slow to work at the clothing factory. She sleeps with the first dude who buys her a rolling rock, but he ditches her. Falls asleep at the movies and gets robbed. Then semi-competent thief Mr. Dennis comes around and she becomes his getaway driver. Dennis wants a big score, so kidnaps a bank manager and gets killed in the ensuing heist – the Criterion cover art is her outside the bank among the onlookers before drifting away alone.
Amy Taubin for Criterion:
Loden said that Wanda and the other films she was trying to make (including a screen adaptation of Kate Chopin’s protofeminist novel The Awakening, whose protagonist, like Wanda, walks out on her husband and children) were psychological studies set in a specific milieu. Among her influences, she counted cinema verité, Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, and films by Andy Warhol. She wanted fiction films to be more like documentaries.
When asked about Wanda, Loden often responded that she used to be just like her: “Until I was thirty, I had no identity of my own.” … It’s something that we don’t expect when we watch movies — the fusion between an actor and a fictional character — because it so seldom happens. And when it does, the actor, more likely than not, is a “nonprofessional.” But Loden was an experienced actor — and no longer without an identity of her own — when she took on Wanda, a character she had created out of her memories of not being present to the world or to herself.