Showing Up is written and directed by Kelly Reichardt and stars Michelle Williams, Hong Chau, Maryann Plunkett, John Magaro, André Benjamin, James Le Gros, and Judd Hirsch as Bill. It tells the story of Lizzy, an artist on the verge of a career-changing exhibition who finds inspiration in the chaos of life. Following up her somewhat breakthrough film “First Cow”, Reichardt with Michelle Williams for her latest. While film buffs have been aware of Reichardt’s talent for a while now (big Wendy and Lucy guy here), the partnership with A24 broke her into a more mainstream arena with Film Twitter and Letterboxd catching wind of this unique voice in film. Kelly Reichardt would be the first to admit her films are not for everyone, but boy are they for me. Showing Up sees Reichardt at her most intimate. More focused on small character details, establishing locations, and creating a tone, Showing Up sees the auteur deliver a sweet, cozy, and surprisingly funny film about artists. I loved it!
No one shoots or blocks a scene like Reichardt. While the plot here is sparse, the images found in Showing Up are vivid. We really get to spend time with these characters and see them develop with little dialogue or exposition. Clever character development and a unique point of view help establish this lived-in world so well. This is a pure slice of life and I couldn’t get enough of it. These characters feel so real and the world feels so specific that even though there’s no crazy action or melodrama you can’t help but get sucked in. Anyone who’s done art or been around artists knows people like this. While the film is clearly exploring themes related to art, those who create it, and the environments they create it, it also creates a tapestry of this art scene. We get to see a whole ecosystem on display here.
As usual, Michelle Williams is excellent, delivering yet another incredible performance. Lizzy is almost at a distance from the audience and we get to see her warts and all. Hong Chau serves as a wonderful toil to her as Jo, who almost seems better suited to be a film protagonist. She’s likable, charismatic, and on the up and up. This central dynamic puts the audience in such an interesting position and it’s so entertaining to watch unfold. We also get a glimpse into Lizzy’s family life with her somewhat cold and self-involved parents and her seemingly mentally ill brother. Reichardt paints such a vivid and specific portrait of this family of artists that I have to believe they are based in some reality.
In short, Showing Up is a minimalist delight, and my favorite Kelly Reichardt to date. 4.5/5