The Movie Waffler New Release Review - SHOWING UP | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - SHOWING UP

Showing Up review
sculptor finds inspiration from the chaos of her life.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Kelly Reichardt

Starring: Michelle Williams, Hong Chau, Amanda Plummer, Judd Hirsch, Andre Benjamin

Showing Up poster

If you're allergic to bohemians you'll need a strong antihistamine to get through Showing Up, writer/director Kelly Reichardt's fourth collaboration with actress Michelle Williams. The film is set in the hipster capital of North America, Portland, Oregon, and its characters live on tree lined streets, wear dungarees and crocs, drink from jam jars and spend their time working on various art pieces.

Showing Up review

Williams' protagonist, Lizzy, doesn't get as much time to spend on the latter as she would like. She's mere days away from putting on an exhibition of the ceramic figures she crafts in the studio beneath her apartment, but she's constantly disrupted. Her landlord, Jo (Hong Chau), is a fellow artist who lives next door and keeps fobbing off Lizzy with excuses every time she asks when she might have hot water in her apartment. Lizzy is busy with her day job at an arts college and needs all her spare time to prepare for her show. Taking a  day off, her plans to get stuck into her work are ruined when Jo lumbers her with a wounded pigeon.

The bird is an inconvenience to Lizzy, but she can't help but look after it, taking time to bring it to a vet and running up a considerable bill in the process. Lizzy has a similar relationship with her family, who get in the way of her work, but whom she can't help but worry about. Her father (Judd Hirsch) has a pair of aging hippy freeloaders (the very '90s duo of Matt Molloy and Amanda Plummer) living indefinitely on his couch. Her brother (John Magaro), who is considered the true genius of the family, has mental health issues, and Lizzy worries he may be a danger to himself.

Showing Up review

The movie is set in the early summer, but Lizzy's demeanour is decidedly autumnal. While everyone around her wears shorts and t-shirts, Lizzy dresses like she's the final girl in an October slasher movie. She walks with a stoop as though she's always returning from a distant well with a pail of water. The bags under her eyes are black like the warpaint of a defeated soldier. You'd give her a hug if you didn't suspect it would make her feel uncomfortable.

They say that Hell is other people. I wouldn't go that far, but relying on others can often feel like purgatory. It's why being a teenager is so frustrating, being unable to live an independent life even if your mind is telling you you're capable of such a thing. If you're like Lizzy and pride yourself on being organised, then the haphazard nature in which others conduct themselves can prove immensely frustrating. It's a cliché that creative people are chaotic. Some are indeed anarchic, like Jo and Lizzy's brother, but most work to a routine, and when that routine is disrupted it can feel like a violation of the social contract.

Showing Up review

Perhaps because they make for more interesting biographical subjects, chaotic artists tend to receive more attention than their more organised counterparts. Watching Jo treat life like a pig treats a muddy puddle, Lizzy probably feels like a victim of this injustice. "I didn't know you had a show coming up," is a refrain Lizzy hears throughout the film. She's unable to promote herself. I don't think it's because she doesn't believe in herself, but because she doesn't believe she can rely on others to see her worth. I imagine Reichardt, and many other women filmmakers, have felt this way in their careers. In a perfect world, showing up and getting the work done should trump any personality when it comes to the artists we revere, but we live in a messy, chaotic, often inconvenient world that too often buries talented introverts like Lizzy under a mound of others' making.

Showing Up is on UK/ROI VOD from January 15th.

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