Showing Up Review

Growing up I was enamored with the artist lifestyle. I wanted to be a photographer and a writer and after high school, I went to Columbia College. Columbia was/is the school for those wanting to go into arts. During my time there I met musicians, artists, writers, and those who had the same dream as me. I loved the artistic community in the school. Hanging out between classes I would see people working on songs together and artists drawing the people around them. Tuition was a bit high for my family so I ended up transferring to a city college that really did not have that type of artistic environment.

Watching Kelly Reichardt’s Showing Up reminded me of those days. It made me miss just hanging out with like-minded individuals and talking to people about what project they are working on next. Back in those days, I portrayed the starving artist look with long hair and an unkempt goatee. I was always trying to work on something but felt like the support was not there for me to continue. That lack of support and trying to create helped me to relate to Michelle Williams’s character of Lizzy. Lizzy is preparing for her solo show but is also struggling with not having any hot water and issues with her family. Lizzy’s landlord, Jo, played by Hong Chau, is also preparing for a couple of solo art shows and keeps putting off fixing the hot water for Lizzy.

The two women have an estranged relationship. It feels like they used to be friends but nowadays their art is causing a rift in their friendship. I have seen this in real life when friends who are artists start to feel as if everything is a competition: who could make the better piece of art and who can get more people to attend their shows? Not only is the art causing a rift between them but the aforementioned hot water issue. Lizzy wants to take a shower and it’s a running theme in the movie.

Michelle Williams Courtesy of A24

Showing up is a great experience into the life of an artist and the slow pace helps us go through the process of creating art. While Jo is more focused on creating her art, Lizzy is more focused on what Jo is doing and trying to see what is going on with her brother. Everyone in Lizzy’s family is involved in the art world and it seems like they are too busy to support or appreciate what Lizzy does. The art that Lizzy does is beautiful. She makes sculptures of women in various poses and her commitment to her craft shows in her work.

The only thing Jo and Lizzy have in common is they both take care of a pigeon that was attacked by Lizzy’s cat earlier in the movie. Lizzy never tells Jo what happened to the bird but they both take turns in caring for and rehabbing the pigeon to its former state. I felt like the pigeon is a metaphor for the art that people create. We do our best to take care of it and prepare it for the world but while we may think it is not ready, the art will determine by itself when it’s ready and just fly away. Art doesn’t belong to the person that created it once it’s set free. That sentence will probably make more sense once you see the movie.

All of the performances in the movie are fantastic and nuanced enough that you will probably see yourself in some of these artists. Michelle Williams perfectly displays the starving artist look and her monotoned performance is a complete departure from her role in The Fabelmans. Hong Chau is superb as Jo who seems to be on the precipice of stardom with her art shows. Judd Hirsch, Lizzy’s father, steals the movie again with his short screen time and tries to pick up the younger artists at the gallery with his stories of artists he knows or says he knows.

Michelle Williams & Hong Chau Courtesy of A24

Final Thoughts: Showing Up is a movie that might not resonate with everyone. The slow pace of the story helps pull you into the lives of Lizzy and Jo and the process of creating art. Not everything can be made instantly and we see that in their daily routines. Lizzy’s character, as subtle as she is, is trying to capture the spark that she sees in those around her while trying to get her own art out into the world. Showing Up has the perfect blend of dry humor and drama.

Kid-Friendly: If your child is an artist or dreams of being an artist this might be a good movie for them. The slow pace of the movie might not keep the attention of younger kids but it might hold the attention of older kids.

Violence: There is no violence in the movie but there is a scene where a cat is trying to eat a pigeon. Not much is shown in the scene but from a distance.

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 & craft.

Scroll to Top