“Showing Up,” directed by Kelly Reichardt, takes us on an introspective journey into the life of Lizzy, brilliantly portrayed by Michelle Williams. The film centers around Lizzy’s complex relationship with Jo, her landlord and fellow artist played by Hong Chau. The dynamics between these two characters reveal a captivating exploration of envy, admiration, and the search for personal fulfillment.
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Running Your Own Race in the Art World
The film delves into the unique world of small-town artists, where local artists often form a tight-knit community, supporting and attending each other’s shows. Lizzy, however, finds herself as an outsider within this milieu.
Working as an administrative assistant at her alma mater, she struggles to assert herself as an artist. The film skillfully portrays the insular vibe of this art scene, capturing the unspoken competition and envy that permeates such close-knit communities.
A Tale of Artistic Identity and Family Dynamics
Lizzy’s father, played by Judd Hirsch, adds another layer of complexity to the story. A sculptor himself, he takes an interest in Lizzy’s work but remains preoccupied with his own life.
The presence of two eccentric visitors, portrayed by Amanda Plummer and Matt Molloy, adds a touch of quirkiness to the narrative. Lizzy’s concerns about her brother, a recluse with unpredictable behavior, further contribute to the intricate family dynamics explored in the film.
Symbolism and Subtlety in Visual Storytelling
Kelly Reichardt, known for her nuanced storytelling, brings her directorial prowess to “Showing Up.” The film strikes a delicate balance between narrative depth and quiet introspection.
Through the use of subtle visual cues, Reichardt invites the audience to unravel the layers of symbolism embedded in the story. The wounded pigeon, which occupies Lizzy’s thoughts, serves as a literary device that adds depth to her character and reflects her internal struggles.
Stellar Performances and Authentic Portrayals
Michelle Williams, a frequent collaborator with Reichardt, delivers a remarkable performance as Lizzy. Her portrayal captures the essence of a downtrodden individual, conveying feelings of disappointment, resentment, and invisibility.
Hong Chau’s portrayal of Jo exudes energy and confidence, serving as a stark contrast to Lizzy’s character. The chemistry between the two actresses creates a compelling dynamic on screen.
Immersive Setting and Believable Art Scene
“Showing Up” authentically portrays the vibrant art scene in Portland. The film successfully captures the essence of the local art community, from the storefront galleries to the artists’ shared spaces.
The attention to detail, such as the presence of cheap wine, cheese squares, and artists deeply aware of each other’s work, adds a sense of realism to the narrative. The film skillfully immerses the audience in this world, making it completely believable.
The Dual Meaning of “Showing Up”
The title of the film, “Showing Up,” encapsulates the underlying tension present within the small art community portrayed in the movie. On one hand, it signifies showing up for others, supporting their endeavors and celebrating their success.
On the other hand, it represents the feeling of being outshone by one’s peers and overshadowed by their achievements. The film masterfully explores the impact of these conflicting emotions on personal growth and relationships.
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Final Thoughts and Overall Impression
While “Showing Up” may have a somewhat neat narrative structure and overt symbolism, the film’s piercing specificity and profound insights into the dynamics of the art scene make it a worthwhile watch. Kelly Reichardt’s directorial finesse shines through, capturing the subtleties of human relationships, artistic identity, and the complexities of envy.
With exceptional performances from Michelle Williams and Hong Chau, the film serves as a gentle reminder that personal growth comes from embracing one’s own journey, rather than constantly comparing oneself to others. “Showing Up” is an intimate and thought-provoking exploration of self-discovery and the pursuit of artistic fulfillment.