Showing Up is director Kelly Reichardt’s first film in the Cannes competition, but it feels more fitting for her original festival home: Sundance. A leisurely, mumblecore dramedy set in an artistic community in Oregon, it stars an excellent Williams as a sculptor, Lizzy, who’s preparing for a new show, but is vexed by various distractions, including a wounded pigeon. The bird in question is actually caught and mauled by Lizzy’s scene-stealing ginger cat, Ricky, but when it’s found by Lizzy’s fellow artist landlady Jo (Hong Chau), she feigns ignorance and helps tend the bird back to health. Meanwhile, Lizzy’s been without hot water for two weeks, something Jo is steadfastly ignoring, using her upcoming two shows as an excuse.
The strained relationship between landlady and tenant provides much of the film’s gentle comedy, as Lizzy dolefully watches Jo spend time on anything but the heating. Jo is characterised largely by what she doesn’t do, and what she leaves Lizzy to deal with, and it’s a familiar type: charismatic, but whimsical and selectively selfish. Meanwhile, our heroine’s family has plenty going on, from her father (Judd Hirsch) and his new friends, to her troubled brother Sean (John Magaro, so fantastic in Reichardt’s last film, First Cow).
Seeing Kelly Reichardt commit to her lighter side is both refreshing and slightly frustrating
From Certain Women to First Cow, Reichardt has delivered some deep and powerful storytelling, and seeing her commit more fully to her lighter side is both refreshing and slightly frustrating by comparison. Still, Showing Up is an amiable watch that has something to say about power dynamics, the art world and our relationship with animals – who are used for all their symbolic worth.
Showing Up premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.