Showing Up movie review & film summary (2023)

Lizzy’s father (Judd Hirsch) was also a sculptor and he takes an interest in his daughter’s work. However, he’s wrapped up in his own life, with two perpetual visitors, played by Amanda Plummer and Matt Molloy, grifter hippies who never settled down. This duo might have been the lively center of another Reichardt film. Lizzy is irritated by them and feels her father is being taken advantage of (and maybe jealous of the attention they soak up from her dad). She worries about her brother (John Magaro), a more stereotypical genius artist, a recluse whose unpredictable behavior is alarming and possibly dangerous. Lizzy also gets caught up in this whole drama with a wounded pigeon foisted on her by Jo. The pigeon takes up a lot of brain space, and Lizzy finds it hard to work with it around. The pigeon is a literary device (the script is by frequent collaborator Jon Raymond of “Wendy and Lucy,” “Meek’s Cutoff,” and “First Cow”).

Williams (another frequent Reichardt collaborator) plays a downtrodden meek person, her slope-shouldered shuffling walk evoking disappointment, resentment, and invisibility. Hong Chau emanates energy and confidence, throwing parties for herself, building a tire swing, and working on her gigantic colored-yarn creations. (Michelle Segre created Jo’s installations, and Lizzy’s small sculptures of women in various stages of wild movement, either joyful or anguished, were created by Cynthia Lahti). The Portland “scene” is totally believable: the storefront galleries, the cheap wine, the cheese squares, the artists on top of one another, totally aware of each other’s work, in each others’ business, maybe ambivalent, but maybe not. Jo shows up at Lizzy’s small gallery show. Lizzy doesn’t go to Jo’s. This is a no-no. The great André Lauren Benjamin (aka André 3000) plays the kiln operator at the college, and he is another “can do” personality, helpful and supportive to the artists who come to him. Lizzy can’t meet him on that level. She’s put-upon, maybe even embarrassed about her art. It’s not important enough.

This may be stating the obvious, but the title has a dual meaning and expresses the tension in this small community, or, at least, the tension Lizzy feels. “Showing Up” can mean showing up for others, supporting, attending Jo’s show, and being happy for her success. “Showing Up” also means feeling like others are ahead of you, doing way better than you, and obliterating your own accomplishments. If you feel “shown up” by your peers, it’s impossible to “show up” for others. There’s something a little too neat about the structure of “Showing Up,” and the pigeon wears its symbolism on its broken wings. But the piercing specificity of Reichardt’s vision, and her insights into the dynamics of an art scene like the one in Portland, are spot on.

Now playing in theaters.