Kelly Reichardt’s delicately strung Showing Up vividly bore the Indie auteur’s signature through its minimalist form, unassuming tone, awkward characters, sparse setting, and crises that imbue life with dramas both grand and intimate. It felt like a companion piece to her marvellous third film Wendy and Lucy, in that both centred on lonely, withdrawn women, with each a potentially alternative version of the other. It’s also arguably the funniest film in her canon, filled with deadpan, situational humour, and perhaps her most personal too given that, like her protagonist, she partakes in her vocation while associated with a liberal arts college. Lizzy (Michelle Williams, in a transformative turn filled with grumpy neuroses, furthering one of the richest ongoing director-actor collaborations) is a sculptor who makes dainty clay statuettes – on women in complex, anguished expressions, borne from evocative watercolours – while employed as resident artist at a small but vibrant arts college, where she doubles as administrative assistant to her mother. As she strives to be ready for a show on her work, she finds herself increasingly roiled and on the edge thanks to those surrounding her – Jo (Hong Chau), fellow artist, landlady and rival, who’s proudly exhibiting her flamboyant installation art, while ignoring the fixing of hot water in Lizzy’s place; her gregarious father who’s allowed a hippie couple to crash in his place; her emotionally distant mother; her unstable brother; and – recalling the running presence of animals in her filmography – a pigeon left wounded by her pet cat. All these come to head in the most idiosyncratic manner at the said show. The grainy, soft-hued cinematography visually complemented this gently eccentric portrayal of the fraught nature of creating art.
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Genre: Drama/Family Comedy