Showing Up

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

5/5 (1)

Emily Carr was a Canadian artist known for her paintings of indigenous people and landscapes. She became recognized following her exhibit in Canada’s National Gallery in 1927, One of her paintings sold for a record price of $3.39 million.

No wonder filmmaker Kelly Reichardt wanted to make a biopic about her.

But she didn’t.

Reichardt said her film changed direction when she arrived in Canada to research Carr and “the passport guy asked us what we were doing, and we said, ‘We’re coming to research a painter named Emily Carr.’ And he goes, ‘Oh yeah. We learned about her.’ That took the wind out of our sails, that she was so famous.”

In the revamped film, Michelle Williams plays a sculptor named Lizzie. It’s a “deceptively simple drama about the artist’s life.”

“Showing Up” is the fourth time Kelly Reichardt and Williams have collaborated together. Their previous films were “Wendy and Lucy” (2008); “Meek’s Cutoff” (2010); and “Certain Women” (2016).

“Showing Up” premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, competing for the Palm d’Or prize.

Moviegoers have found the film to be “slow,” “boring,” and “depressing.”

As one said, “Watching someone paint, sculpt, write, shoot film even, is boring. It really is. A lot of the dynamic goes on inside the neural network of the human brain, a thing we can’t see. All we see is the artist rendering the final creation. It is akin to watching paint dry. And that’s kind of what this film feels like. Watching the artist dry her paint as she walks from one vignette to the next.”

Another groused, “This movie was soooooo ssslllloooowww that I started to fall asleep a few times.”

A third argued, “It is actually a kind of endearing film, and accomplishes its goal in the end. There’s nothing flashy here, just a slow paced well-meaning film looking at the everyday life of an artist who finally stands up for herself, her art, and life in the end.”

Admittedly, there’s little plot. This is more of a character piece.

Michelle Williams is an exceptionally fine actress. And Judd Hirsch joins her to deliver an amazing performance, despite having little to do. Note: Williams and Hirsch recently co-starred in Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans,” each receiving an Oscar nod.

But as one audience member summed it up: “This movie depicts artists as depressing people with no personalities who live like paupers.”

True, but Kelly Reichardt does it so well.

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