“Showing Up” is the new film by Kelly Reichardt (“First Cow”), a master of “slow cinema” meaning a focus on the details and dramas of everyday people. Reichardt is appealingly consistent, and her films are a refreshing antidote to the bombastic blockbuster. By focusing on the minutia of her characters, the director reveals certain quirks and eccentricities within, creating a compelling experience.
The film, initially meant to be based on the painter Emily Carr (mainly known for her aboriginal themes and landscapes), concerns Lizzy (Michelle Williams), a sculptor who grows increasingly obsessed with Carr’s work, despite being distracted throughout.
Lizzy works day after day, yet she is increasingly disturbed by the fact that there has been no hot water in her house for weeks on end.
Lizzy attempts to make in-roads with her good friend Jo (Hong Chau) who is also an artist. But the self-centered Jo often gives Lizzy the cold shoulder.
As fate would have it, Jo finds an injured pigeon—the very same one that Lizzy’s cat brought in the night before— and gives it to Lizzy. Her maternal instincts excited, Lizzy becomes the pigeon’s caregiver and takes it very seriously, which weighs on her work as an exhibiting artist.
Michelle Williams is excellent here in a very understated, down-to-earth role. Hong Chau is also revealing in showing icy objectivity on one hand and engaging spirit on the other.
This film highlights creative obsessives who are driven in their work. It underscores a mania as well as a lively quirkiness.
Actor John Magaro has a scene-stealing performance as a compulsive conceptual artist, while Judd Hirsch appears as a reclusive ceramicist with no need for any more artmaking. Lastly actor Maryann Plunkett offers a performance as Lizzy’s mother, which strangely parallels the mother in the film “Beau Is Afraid” for her sarcasm and passive aggressiveness.
“Showing Up” is another gem for Kelly Reichardt and a subtle slice of life about friendship and artmaking with all its attractions and discords.
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