Kelly Reichardt’s Thoughtful “Showing Up” Displays the Art of the Possible

Indie writer/director Kelly Reichardt is generally regarded as the matriarch of “slow cinema,” and her leisurely paced drama Showing Up (B-) focused on a ceramics artist played by Michelle Williams could be characterized as next of kiln: a slow burn with the effect of making the viewer feel quite glazed over at times. But ultimately the minimalist auteur punctures the porcelain veneer of her peculiar observational character study with moments of pathos and humor bordering on therapeutic. There’s nary a plot, aside from Williams’ character readying her whimsical figurines for an exhibition night while nursing an injured pigeon back to health and checking in on a brother suffering a declining mental state. This sibling is effectively portrayed in an off-kilter performance by John Magaro, providing an allegory about how artistic obsession isn’t too far removed from going a little crazy. Williams sculpts an idiosyncratic performance at the film’s center opposite a talented cast in bit roles including Maryann Plunkett and Judd Hirsch as her estranged parents and Hong Chau (winning as always) and André Benjamin as fellow denizens of an insular artist colony. Reichardt’s voyeurism into the process of creation has a way of growing on the viewer and soon enough conjures a mild bit of a maelstrom in its timid teacup. Although the pigeon might be the undisputed VIP character in the heart of this art house fare, this film should reward those seeking a story that breaks the mold.

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