After Reichardt met writer Jon Raymond through a mutual friend, she adapted one of his short stories into her breakout film “Old Joy.” Her next film, “Wendy and Lucy” was also based on a story by Raymond, who co-wrote the screenplay. This would mark her first time working with actress Michelle Williams, a partnership that has become a fruitful and much beloved actor-director pairing. “Showing Up” is Reichardt’s sixth collaboration with Raymond and her fourth collaboration with Williams.
Yet, although “Showing Up” is set in Portland, where many of her previous films have taken place, the film has a distinct comical flair as she paints a loving portrait of the city’s art world. Williams plays Lizzy, a sculptor preparing for an upcoming show. Unfortunately, her chaotic personal life often impedes her ability to concentrate on her work. Her menial administrative job at her old art college offers little artistic satisfaction. Her friend, landlord, and fellow artist Jo (Hong Chau) is also preparing for two shows and thus is neglecting her broken hot water. Her very divorced parents (Maryann Plunkett, Judd Hirsh) – also artists – can’t be in a room together without bickering. And her brother Sean (John Magaro) is either having a breakdown or getting into “earthwork.”
“Showing Up” is a wry character study full of Reichardt’s trademark attention to detail and brought to life by exquisitely lived-in performances from the entire cast, but primarily through the complicated relationship between Lizzy and Jo as portrayed by Williams and Chau.
For this month’s Female Filmmakers in Focus column, RogerEbert.com spoke to Reichardt about capturing the authentic feel of Portland, her long-time collaborators Jon Raymond and Michelle Williams, working with Hong Chau for the first time, and the art of filming artists at work.
I read that Janet Weiss [from Sleater-Kinney] did the location scouting.
Yes, she did.
I loved how it felt very realistically about Portland. But also you had this beautiful soundscape. What was your process in capturing this authentic feeling of Portland?
We wrote the script around the school, which is the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts, which got shuttered right before we filmed in it. It’s a beloved institution. Over 110 years old. It had some different locations. But it’s been at this location since maybe the late ’70s, early ’80s. Great spot, really sad that it was leaving. It was a big deal for the ceramics community for decades. It was an empty school, and we wrote the script for it hoping somehow we’d be able to use it. When the pandemic shuts it down they let us use the school, basically. And the apartments where Lizzy and Jo live, those are our friends. We know everybody that lives on that street and our friends built those apartments for their artists friends at a time. Everyone’s lived in those apartments at some moment. Janet is not only a brilliant drummer, but she’s an amazing locations person. And I love that if you write that because locations people get no credit.t