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‘Showing Up’ puts in the work


A lot of Kelly Reichardt’s new movie, Showing Up, is about the everyday process of creating art, the forces that push us to create, the distractions that pull us away from creating, and the necessity of letting our art and the outside world coexist. Michelle Williams plays Lizzy, a sculptor who works in admin at an art school in Oregon, and who is working hard at finishing some pieces for a show she has coming up. Lizzy is pretty prickly, she seems to live mostly in her head, and especially now while she’s trying to complete her work. The hot water at her apartment has been out for a few weeks, and her landlord, played by Hong Chau, is slow to fix it, partly because she has her own pair of exhibitions coming up. We see both women trying to navigate the unexpected parts of life, some serious, some less so, as they also try to finish the art they’re compelled to make. And we see how difficult real connection can be in a group of artists, not so much because everyone is self-absorbed but because they’re so absorbed with what they, themselves, are doing.

Williams is magnificent as Lizzy, especially in her physicality—we can tell by her walk and her eyes how much time she’s spending inside herself, probably constantly working and reworking her art in her own mind. And this is true even down to how she chews her food, as if the way she’s chewing is the furthest possible thing from her mind. Kelly Reichardt is one of the great American directors working today, and as usual, her movie never feels like it’s in a hurry, but it never drags—we understand the rhythms of each person we meet, and throughout her camera catches students at the school in the process of making their art, sometimes huge pieces in the foreground, sometimes little movements off to the side. It reminds us that art is a real thing that real people do, not some mysterious sorcery. Even if it is a little bit magical.

Showing Up is available to buy on digital platforms, and available to rent beginning June 27th.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.