Sunday, September 10, 2023

Showing Up


Directed and edited by Kelly Reichardt and written by Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond, Showing Up is the story of a sculptor who is about to open her own exhibition while she also tends to her family life as well as friends and competing artists just as she is convinced she’s going to get her big break. The film is an exploration into the art scene in Portland, Oregon where a woman is eager to make it while trying to devote much attention to her job, family life, and friendships. Starring Michelle Williams, Hong Chau, Andre Benjamin, James LeGros, Maryann Plunkett, John Magaro, and Judd Hirsch. Showing Up is an engaging and somber film from Kelly Reichardt.

The film follows the week and the life of a sculptor living in Portland, Oregon where she works for her mother at the Oregon College of Arts and Craft while is set to have her first major art exhibition while dealing her neighbor who is a competing artist as well as issues with her family and tending to a wounded pigeon that her cat attacked. It is a film that follows a woman who is struggling to work on her sculptors and manage other things in her life yet her apartment doesn’t have hot water as her neighbor isn’t fixing it in favor of her own work with her own exhibition. The film’s screenplay by Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond largely explores the life that Lizzy (Michelle Williams) has as her father Bill (Judd Hirsch) is a retired artist while she works at the college with her mother Jean (Maryann Plunkett) who is trying to do her work but also have this major exhibition that could be the break she needs as an artist.

Yet, her neighbor Jo (Hong Chau) hasn’t been able to fix Lizzy’s water heater as she is often distracted with other things relating to her own exhibit as well as having to care for a pigeon that Jo found which had been attacked by Lizzy’s cat. It all plays into the many things that are keeping Lizzy from completing her work for the exhibition as well as some family issues as it includes her reclusive brother Sean (John Magaro) who had been estranged from the family. Lizzy is also dealing with the fact that there’s other artists who have been doing exhibits that has been very successful as there is a pressure for her to get some attention as well as get some validity as an artist.

Reichardt’s direction definitely has some style as it is shot on location in Portland as well as places at the Oregon College of Arts and Craft in Portland, Oregon as it is a character in the film. Reichardt would maintain a simplistic presentation as she emphasizes on some long shots and a few static shots in either some medium or wide shots in certain rooms. Yet, the film opens with a shot that lingers for a few minutes as it moves around various sculptures that Lizzy has created. Much of the sculptures that Lizzy creates is mainly created by artist Cynthia Lahti as it has a unique style as a lot of the art work such as the work that Jo has created showcases a vibrant world that emphasizes on craftsmanship through all sorts of means in the world of art. Even as the college that Lizzy and her mother work at is filled with things that are unique where Reichardt maintains a looseness to the world and the many things that occur to ensure someone is always being creative or how sculptures are refined in a kiln. The attention to detail that Reichardt shows in what Lizzy would do to create her sculptures with its close-ups on her hands is a key aspect of the film.

Also serving as the film’s editor, Reichardt would allow shots to linger while deviating into stylish fast cuts in order to play into the drama that includes Lizzy’s family life as she is upset that her father would often surround himself with drifters. Reichardt’s careful framing and sense of looseness in her direction does give the film a tone that feels free where there are moments where nothing is staged. Notably in the film’s climax at Lizzy’s exhibition is where a lot of the characters come in to support her including this pigeon that she has grown fond of while is also trying to resolve issues with Jo. Overall, Reichardt creates a compelling and wondrous film about an artist trying to get her break while dealing with the chaos in both her professional and personal life.

Cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its naturalistic yet low-key approach to the photography as well as giving it a grainy look of sorts for some of its interior scenes as it is a highlight of the film. Production designer Anthony Gasparo, with set decorator Amy Beth Silver and art director Lisa Ward, does amazing work with not just the homes of the characters but also some of the art exhibitions as a lot of it were created by local artists. Costume designer April Napier does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual and low-key to play into the personality of these characters with some of whom are wearing hippie-inspired clothing.

Visual effects supervisor Chris Connolly does terrific with the film’s minimal visual effects as it is largely based on the pigeon in a few key scenes with a lot of emphasized on animatronics rather than computer effects. Sound editor Daniel Timmons does superb work with the sound to play into the natural elements of the locations as well as how sound is presented from afar or up close. The film’s music by Ethan Rose is wonderful as it is largely a low-key electronic/ambient score with some woodwinds that includes flute performances by Andre Benjamin aka Andre 3000 while music supervisor Dawn Sutter Madell creates a soundtrack that is largely low-key and played on radios with a lot of being indie music.

The casting by Simon Max Hill is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Amanda Plummer and Matt Malloy as a couple of drifters who are crashing at Bill’s home, Lauren Lakis as a colleague in Terri, Denzel Rodriguez as a young administrator in William, James LeGros as an older administrator in Ira, Heather Lawless as an artist in Marlene who just had her own successful exhibit, and Theo Taplitz as a young neighbor of Sean who watches over Sean. Judd Hirsch is fantastic as Lizzy’s father Bill as a former artist who still creates pots yet prefers to enjoy retirement and hang out with drifters which worries Lizzy. John Magaro is superb as Lizzy’s brother Sean as a former artist who has turned into a recluse as he becomes paranoid as it relates to his own mental illness and such as he hasn’t talked to his parents in months.

Andre Benjamin is excellent as Eric as an artist/teacher who watches over the kilns as he is a colleague of both Jo and Lizzy as he does what he can to help the latter while is more interested in the former. Maryann Plunkett is brilliant as Lizzy’s mother Jean as a top administrator at the college who is hoping to keep Lizzy busy while knowing that she has an exhibit to present that she wants to attend with the whole family. Hong Chau is amazing as Jo as this artist who is also Lizzy’s next door neighbor/landlord who is already on the verge of a breakthrough with her own exhibition yet is often distracted to help out Lizzy as it causes some tension and such. Finally, there’s Michelle Williams in a phenomenal performance as Lizzy as this artist who is set to have breakthrough moment as an artist yet is coping with dealing with things in her family life as well as work and other distractions where Williams captures a lot of the struggles and anguish an artist has while also coping with her own family issues as Williams brings a lot of restraint as well as realism to the character as it’s one of her finest performances to date.

Showing Up is an incredible film by Kelly Reichardt that features a great leading performance from Michelle Williams. Along with its supporting cast, realistic visuals, and its study of artists struggling to get a break. It is a film that follows a week in the life of an artist who is trying to get her moment but also deal with the many struggles that artists go through in trying to balance their lives with their art and the people around them. In the end, Showing Up is a sensational film from Kelly Reichardt.

Kelly Reichardt Films: River of Grass - Old Joy - Wendy & Lucy - Meek's Cutoff - Night Moves (2013 film) - Certain Women - First Cow - The Auteurs #72: Kelly Reichardt

© thevoid99 2023


Brittani Burnham said...

Kelly Reichardt is a director I struggle with. I want to like her films so much and I'm usually very meh on them, with the exception of Night Moves. That one was my favorite.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-Night Moves is her most accessible work but I really like the less mainstream stuff since she aims for a realistic approach to her subjects while also doing great things with her actors with Michelle Williams always doing something unique. I think their collaboration should be regarded as one of the best actor-director collaborations.

ruth said...

I didn't really get Reichardt's last film but I really want to see this one because of Hong Chau, and the premise sounds intriguing too.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-It is a bit more accessible and Chau is great in this though Reichardt isn't for everyone but I do think people should seek this film out.