Art is a craft which requires much trial and error. Director Kelly Reichardt is detailed in showing the varied aspects of struggle in the film Showing Up. The movie has much melancholy with fragments of positive light. There is happiness, sadness, and frustration. Through the eyes of the artist, there are interesting revelations. Showing Up displays brilliance in portraying the sensitive reality of an artist who does not stop what she loves doing to have her craft speak to people. The witty side of Showing Up comes out in depicting the artist’s struggles. The story is engrossing because there are moments of acceptance, despite the disappointments that occur sporadically. Reichardt knows realism and how to display hardship through well-written narrative scenes.
Reichardt’s directing is effective at representing a truly rough line of work. Showing Up is emotional in moments but also quite heartfelt. The depths of someone’s love of art and pursuit of one’s passion are featured in Showing Up, and the beauty of acceptance is an enduring message in this film.
Showing Up takes place in Portland, Oregon. The main character is Lizzy, played by Michelle Williams. Lizzy’s fascination is being a sculptor. The film centers around her focus on prepping for a show to help her find more balance in her life. At the same time, she is maintaining a creative eye for more success in her future. Lizzy’s is surrounded by many challenges. Her landlord Jo (played by Hong Chau) does not keep Lizzy’s home up to date with maintenance, water, or electricity. Lizzy is not great at keeping up on payments for her essential services because she does not have many side gigs besides her sculpting. She has problems with her brother Sean (played by Sean Magaro). She also has a “mixed relationship” with her dad Bill (played by Judd Hirsch). Honestly Lizzy has a “mixed relationship” with a lot of people since she struggles to find those who support her love of being a sculptor.
Lizzy’s problems with making ends meet are a continuous struggle throughout the film. Reichardt’s directing shows that the annoyance and stress are due to Lizzy’s craft not making a profit or supporting a fulfilling life. Lizzy’s art show is just one of her many challenges. While not much of Lizzy’s backstory or previous art experiences are displayed, ultimately it is her love of the craft of sculpting that is at the heart of the film. Williams is effective at showing Lizzy’s fascination for her art. Despite the setbacks, Showing Up does portray many doors of compassion which open for Lizzy.
The dynamics of family life are where there are several setbacks for Lizzy. Some involve her relationship with her brother Sean. Both are introverted, but Sean chooses to dismiss himself from the world or those related to him for a variety of reasons. Lizzy loves her family, including Sean, but feels that there is not enough encouragement from her family to help drive her success. The disagreements and headbutting between Lizzy and Sean are the source of Lizzy’s biggest annoyance in her already stressful life. The underlying tension makes the audience hope that Lizzy’s show is a masterpiece of wonders.
In the many faithful corners that are featured in Showing Up, the vibrancy of the art makes the film shine. I experienced it in the panning shots of Lizzy’s home, in the daily activities Lizzy deals with, and in the people around her who encourage her art. Lots of her artwork has to do with her interests and family background. Overall, I loved this film for its beautiful artistry, pure visualizations, and realistic characterizations. Four stars.