Saturday 28 May 2022

Cannes 2022 - Showing Up by Kelly Reichardt

Showing Up might not seem have the same emotional weight and narrative stakes as some of Kelly Reichardt's best films such as Old Joy and Wendy & Lucy at first, as we spend a few days in the company of Lizzie and the people in her lives, her family and a community gravitating around an art school in Portland. The most dramatic developments in the first half involve an injured pigeon and a catalogue not ready on time for her upcoming exhibition.

Yet this is very deceptive and the American director her her regular co-script writers, John Raymond, have never been so close to the spirit of Raymond Carver with their minimalist storytelling, one that is seemingly mundane yet so richly evocative. Several themes are braced, some quite topical and while there are elements of social satire, it never feels militant. In fact, this is a wry humour throughout which is new for Kelly Reichardt.

While Showing Up explores creativity and the process of making art, it is represented with much subtlety and without the usual stereotypes about feverish behaviour and hysterical bombast, indeed Lizzie spends much of her time being disrupted by minor annoyances from her family and neighbourhood when she should be making art. Yet a couple of impressive scenes in which she does get to make and create have a wonderful simplicity to them. A first scene in which she quietly gets on with it, peacefully at last has a perfect length, long enough to engage us and try the patience of some but we are not talking about some crazy arthouse BS 30mn take. Later on, Lizzie is seen not so much contemplating as just looking at her creations with hints of pride taking over her usual self-doubt. Both of these scenes have a soothing serenity to them.

Michelle Williams is unrecognisable, not so much because of the slight physical differences but because she is completely inhabited by her character, usually the sort of things you would expect to happen in bombastic biopics so it is all the more remarkable that this acting feat as at the service of such an understated character. 

Fans of Kelly Reichardt will find plenty to love in Showing Up and her talent for quietly affecting films very much in evidence yet again. Her career seems to have taken a more prolific turn lately which can only be applauded.

Review by Laurent De Alberti

Star rating: 

Official Selection, In Competition

Showing Up. USA 2022. Directed by Kelly Reichardt. Starring Michelle Williams, Hong Chau...

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