Showing Up

Directed by: Kelly Reichardt
Distributed by: A24

Written by Michael Clawson

A new masterpiece from one of our greatest living filmmakers, Kelly Reichardt’s “Showing Up” is funny, poetic, and profoundly wonderful. A witty and sweetly gentle story about the life of an artist, it’s a refreshingly light film for this director, but it also fits beautifully alongside the finest of Reichardt’s muted character studies. Reichardt regular Michelle Williams (as tremendous as ever) is Lizzy, a Portland-based sculptor bitterly trying her best to manage distractions as she prepares for a solo art show. Everyday demands pull Lizzy away from the quiet and solitude of her garage workspace, where she’s carefully finalizing a line of small, rough-hewn clay sculptures: she has to buy cat food; remind her landlord and frenemy neighbor, who’s also an artist, that Lizzy’s hot water still needs fixing; go to her administrative job at an arts college, where her boss is none other than Lizzy’s mom. 

After a pigeon crash-lands in her bedroom one night, Lizzy begrudgingly takes on bird caregiving duties together with her landlord, adding yet another inconvenience that can take Lizzy’s mind away from her creative practice (along with “Wendy & Lucy” and “First Cow,” “Showing Up” completes an informal trio of films that crucially involve human-animal relationships). In typical Reichardt fashion, little happens beyond the ordinary: Lizzy’s grumpiness towards the bird softens, she attends to family matters, one sculpture meets a tragic fate. But what sets “Showing Up” apart from Reichardt’s previous work is its flawless balance between gravity and levity. Where another filmmaker would find easy targets for satire and caricature in this milieu of creative Pacific Northwesterners, Reichardt finds both comedy and immense beauty in her character’s daily lives and artistic pursuits. Alongside a hilarious, brilliantly cast Hong Chau and a whole host of superb supporting cast members, Williams turns in a performance so exquisite, you’ll pray that this director/actress pair will re-team for a fifth time.

“Showing Up” Trailer

Michael Clawson is a member of the Seattle Film Critic Society you can follow his passion for film on Letterboxd.

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