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NYFF Film Review: ‘Showing Up’ is a Rare Misfire From Kelly Reichardt

It’s not a fun feeling to be the only person who doesn’t see what others see in a film. After all, I go into a movie already hoping for the best. No one wants to hate something. I obviously don’t hate Showing Up, but as a 60th New York Film Festival selection, it really does fall flat. With a slack pacing and misstep in dipping in and out of its plot, it becomes easy just not to care about this character study. It’s a shame, too, since the flick is made by someone who’s often aces at this, along with Michelle Williams, who is one of the best actresses in the business. Sadly, it just never comes together, making for a disappointment here at NYFF.

Showing Up is a rare misfire for filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, who normally is one of the most reliable voices in independent cinema. Here, it becomes quickly apparent that it’s not going to build much on its premise. So, you’re either down for a stroll among the art crowd or you’re not. More times than not, I would be, especially from Reichardt, but here, it just does not work.

Lizzie (Williams) is an artist living in an apartment owned by friend and fellow artist Jo (Hong Chau). They get along, but have very different styles, which is only exacerbated by Lizzie not having hot water in her apartment, rendering her unable to shower, which Jo is slow to worry about. She’s planning a big show, so she visits her dad (Judd Hirsch) to invite him, puzzled by the couple staying at his home. There’s also the matter of a bird with a broken wing, which Jo and Lizzie begin caring for, with an escalating amount of attachment.

As she navigates the daily dramas of her family and friends, Lizzie gets more and more stressed out by more or less everything. Part of her anxiety comes from her troubled brother Sean (John Magaro), but part of it continues to be Jo’s seeming indifference to her hot water problem. Lizzie continues to plan her show and take care of the bird, but the threat of a major crack is never far from her mind.


Michelle Williams is reliably good here, but all of the restraint shown actually works against the already sleepy flick. Usually, we’re content to just observe her in one of these simple character studiies. Sadly, it quickly becomes apparent that this low stakes drama will test your patience, even with Williams going for some light comedy. Hong Chau is fun here, but her part is somewhat one note. John Magaro returns to work with Reichardt, unfortunately in an underwritten part. He does what he can, it’s just a role limited in what it can offer. Judd Hirsch is a highlight in a small role, though for even more high quality Hirsch, stay tuned for The Fabelmans. Supporting players include André 3000 (credited as André Benjamin), Lauren Lakis, Eudora Peterson, Amanda Plummer, Maryann Plunkett, Theo Taplitz, and more.

Co-writer/director Kelly Reichardt sees her work fall flatter than usual. Again co-writing with Jonathan Raymond, Reichardt meanders, both visually and with its story. The direction has less personality than usual, while the story is even more paper-thin than some of her previous works. Usually, watching her characters is enough. Wendy and Lucy has even less of a plot, but it’s much more compelling in its execution, for example.

Showing Up just did not work for me. I may end up the only one who feels this way, but I have to accurately reflect my feelings on the film. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s languid, thin, and ultimately less than satisfying. Especially for the work that Reichardt and Williams have done together, this is just a misstep. As one of the disappointments at NYFF this year, it ends up being forgettable, which is the biggest shame of all.

SCORE: ★★1/2


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