For the seventh feature film , The Show, writer/director Kelly Reichardt returned to the Pacific Northwest to tell the story of an artist couple living in Portland, Oregon. Lizzie (played by Reichardt collaborator Michelle Williams) and Jo (played by Hong Chau in their first film since being Oscar nominated for The Whale ) are sculptors and members of the local art school and team. At the beginning of the film, two women prepare for an exhibition that is only a few days away.
The film wisely avoids making women into direct competitors. They don't compete with each other. Joe attends Lizzie's shows and often compliments her on her work; Lizzie didn't show Joe the same courtesy. It's not meant that way because it might come off as condescending. Joe hardly noticed. However, we often see Lizzie studying Joe's work on the mezzanine floor of their shared gallery, much to Joe's awe.
Showing Up also avoids the boring cliche of an underdog tale about women vying for their big hits in hopes of becoming rising stars on the international art scene. The film is set in a small art market where only a few fellow artists, colleagues, students and family members get to see the fruits of their labor. This is a story about artists who create because they have to, because they can't imagine doing anything else. The characters live in a world where art is the result of passion and not commerce.
Showing Up touches on the same theme as Steven Spielberg's latest film The Fablemans . Coincidentally, both films starred Williams and both starred Judd Hirsch in a supporting role. Despite these superficial similarities, both films explore the plight of the artist and the determination it takes to live a life as a filmmaker or sculptor. Lizzie has no romantic partners, no kids, and no hot water thanks to Jo, who has one too. Little Sammy Feibelman would become a worldwide box office hit. Lizzie's financial future looks less rosy.
This film is full of interesting director and actor pairings. Men are (unsurprisingly) always in the spotlight: Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, Bong Joon-ho and Song Kang-ho, even John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. Showing Up proved once again how powerful the combination of Reichardt and Williams can be on screen ( Wendy & Lucy , Mick's Cut , Some Women). Williams delivers smooth, silky action with dialogue that rarely breaks boredom. This is an interior design that perfectly suits the space that Richard has created. Both women share the same telepathy that has long existed between their bandmates. Everyone intuitively feels the movement of the other.
The script is so tame that it's impossible to tell if an actor is speaking scripted dialogue or if a moment is improvised. Reichardt's character never reveals the film's theme. He believes his audience will absorb the many possible meanings of the images that unfold on screen. The works created by both the heroes and the supporting characters' reactions to this art are emotionally charged. It conveys information about the characters even without words.
With the exception of his debut film River of Grass (1994), Reichardt has edited his own films. Thanks to co-writing, direction and editing, his films develop a unique rhythm. The decision to take a moment to rest or unwind seemed easy (no doubt the result of her careful consideration). It's like he has an internal clock or metronome that keeps the perfect tempo for each scene.
For modern moviegoers accustomed to sharp camera movements and large CGI perspectives, Shaw may find it "slow". For some people, this word is incorrectly synonymous with boredom. Or rather just the beat of Reichardt's internal metronome, which doesn't make the film any less interesting. He was disinterested in storylines, traditional character arcs, and a standard three-act screenplay. It simply immerses the viewer in the world of its characters and leaves them there for the imaginary few days that the film takes place.
Reichardt dispenses with conventional film techniques, which makes his films so interesting and original. Nothing happens in Showing Up because it "needs" to set up an upcoming event. The standard structure and impact of mainstream cinema is nowhere to be found. This is not a boring movie. That's brave.