April 14, 2023 / Sphere Films Canada
Starring: Michelle Williams, Hong Chau, André 3000, Todd-o-Phonic Todd
Directed By: Kelly Reichardt
A sculptor preparing to open a new show must balance her creative life with the daily dramas of family and friends, in Kelly Reichardt's vibrant and captivatingly funny portrait of art and craft.
Written By Darren
Rating 2 out of 5
Showing Up packs some major talent with the likes of Michelle Williams, Hong Chau and Judd Hirsch, and while the film strives to be a quiet and intimate portrayal of an artist and how her family drama has influenced her art, the film will not connect with all viewers.
After 2022 with Michelle Williams, Hong Chau and Judd Hirsch’s Oscar nominations for their incredible performances in The Fabelmans and The Whale, a film with the three of them in it was not something I could pass on. And with A24 releasing the film, you know you are going to get a very well made film with Showing Up. It is hard to deny that the performances are not good, nor that Kelly Reichardt has crafted a film with care and attention to its characters, but it is one of the many A24 films that is very artsy and going to speak only to a very limited audience.
Lizzy is a sculptor working on her next art exhibition, trying to stay focused on her work despite the many distractions in her personal life: her brother’s struggles with mental illness, her lack of hot water for weeks in her home, her parents inability to see her brother’s struggles, and the injured bird she begins caring for. Using this chaos to fuel her creative artistic design, Lizzy incorporates her relationships into her sculptures hoping that this will help her take her career to the next level.
This film marks Reichardt and Williams’s fourth collaboration together, and it is evident that the two work incredibly well together. Williams loses herself in the character of Lizzy under Reichardt’s direction, as both of these women create a quiet character study that makes for an intriguing watch. It is purposely understated, which will work for viewers who adore arthouse cinema, but is a challenging watch for audiences who like a little more plot to their films.
While I can appreciate the craftsmanship of the film, I was constantly waiting for something to happen in the film. I was left with more questions as to how the chaos in Lizzy’s life influenced her art, as we did not see much of her creating her art and were left discovering this truth during the final art show as the characters walked around the exhibition and saw themselves in the sculpture. It is possible that artists will connect better with the film, as it does spend time highlighting the art community, but those without that exposure will not appreciate this. There is no doubt that this is the type of film that critics will eat up, but mainstream audiences will question why it got such stellar reviews.
With the star power of the main cast, Williams, Hong Chau and Judd Hirsch all hot off Oscar nominations, there are good performances to carry the film. Williams creates this artistic soul in Lizzy with a quiet tenderness that becomes the heart of the film. It is not her usual showy performance where you can see her power and strength as an actress, that audiences remember from The Fabelmans and Manchester by the Sea, but her talent is on full display throughout the film. Chau is entertaining as Lizzy’s landlord and fellow artist, creating some comedic moments as well as being a catalyst for Lizzy’s art as she deals some hard truths to Lizzy in the final act. And while Hirsch may only have a couple of scenes in the film, he does a wonderful job creating the free spirit that Lizzy’s father is in a mere matter of minutes.
While the film has some strong performances, especially from Michelle Williams who is an incredibly talented actress delivering another great performance, Showing Up is a quiet film that some viewers will no doubt appreciate, but will leave many viewers wanting more answers than this understated character study wishes to divulge.