Showing Up Movie Review: Kelly Reichardt’s Latest With Michelle Williams Deep Dives the Artistic Process

Review: Showing Up is the latest Kelly Reichardt picture to take an unassuming, gentle approach to its subject – even while tormenting them around every corner. Michelle Williams stars again in a Reichardt picture, and becomes the main attraction as she maneuvers this world effortlessly as a struggling artist trying to break through.

Showing Up movie directed by Kelly Reichardt and starring Michelle Williams
Showing Up Movie Review

Showing Up is the latest movie from director and writer Kelly Reichardt, who has operated in the independent scene for the better part of thirty years now capitalizing on lo-fi cinematography and slower pacing that can sometimes feel like a tough barrier to break down when watching her movies. If you can get past these stylistic choices, there are common themes of personal ambition and treatment of the lower class socially and economically.

And that’s generally where I’ve sat with most of her movies in the past. I’ve admired them from afar, but I’ve rarely felt the impactful punch that many of her hardcore fans have felt time and time again. Take her latest project prior to Showing Up, where she built out a world of fur trappers and cooks in the early days of the Oregon Territory with First Cow.

That movie is so methodical and concise in its storytelling decisions that it feels tough to crack into. I appreciate the choices that she makes in the film, like the signature 4:3 ratio that stays consistent throughout, but I had a hard time digging into the world that she was building through it, largely because the scripts for her films can feel so bare and unessential.

But then there are movies like Wendy and Lucy, which is one of my favorite movies of that year and feels like a pinnacle piece of indie filmmaking given our current cultural and societal climate – she does a phenomenal job of highlighting outsiders in middle-class America, but she does it in a style that I occasionally struggle to feel engaged with.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that I struggled occasionally relating to and staying in focus with Showing Up, a movie that is equally interesting and distancing in style – as if Kelly Reichardt is parodying herself from the opening frame. Of course she sticks with thematic poignancy that I’ve generally felt rewarding, but it’s done in such a lowkey way that it’s hard to fully immerse yourself in the experience.

Showing Up follows Lizzy (Michelle Williams) and the days leading up to a potentially life-changing art exhibit that she hasn’t quite prepared for yet. While she takes the time to sculpt the figures she’ll inevitably put on display for professionals traveling from hours away, she encounters issues spanning from familial turmoil to a wounded pigeon – all possibly leading to new creative inspiration and ideas she hadn’t yet conceived of.

Above all else, I can still admire Reichardt’s ingenuity in crafting a story about the artistic complex and the rationale that being left alone to your own thoughts helps concoct the best outcome. Michelle Williams is perhaps the best vessel for this idea as she’s occasionally been used as a siphon for the themes of the artistic complex, such as playing Spielberg’s tortured mother just last year in The Fabelmans, as if negative energy and time constraints are the only way to make a significantly stronger impact through your own work.

I applaud Kelly Reichardt for tackling these themes, and for being honest and sincere in her approach toward them. Although I haven’t always fawned over her past work, I appreciate the consistency within her own style, and I like that she’s being more self-reflexive about the struggles that go into making something brand new and original.

But I still had trouble fully investing myself into the story she presented with Showing Up. I partially blame myself and the city I live in for not playing it in theaters, but I imagine Showing Up would play a lot differently being locked in with it on the big screen rather than the comfort of my own home where there’s constantly other things going on that are begging for my attention. Again, Showing Up is so lowkey that it ventures into being a detriment of the movie – there’s so much time spent on so little script that the average viewer is sure to get bored.

But Kelly Reichardt isn’t making movies for the average viewer, so I can see the praise coming from her fans for her latest movie. The cinematography and tone add to the same stylistic impulses that have swallowed her previous movies. It’s just that the story isn’t nearly as disarming as her best movies, and I didn’t find quite enough in the margins to rectify that.

Because Wendy and Lucy still feels like the magnum opus of her career, and much of her work since have just been glimmers of that beam of despair and heartbreak – Wendy and Lucy is one of the saddest movies I’ve ever seen, I’m not sure anything will compare to it this year or in the next few. I feel bad holding that against Reichardt, but there seems to be a melting pot of tonal and stylistic ideas that I feel at arm’s length with, even though I admire and understand many of the decisions she makes in Showing Up.

So while I was hoping Showing Up would be one of the signature indie releases so far in 2023, I felt as if it was a lukewarm, middling project by Kelly Reichardt and Michelle Williams, who have accomplished much more together in the form of movies with greater impact and a much more resounding emotional approach.


Genre: Comedy, Drama

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Showing Up Cast and Credits

Showing Up movie cast and credits, including Kelly Reichardt and Michelle Williams


Michelle Williams as Lizzy

Hong Chau as Jo

Maryann Plunkett as Jean

John Magaro as Sean

André 3000 as Eric

Judd Hirsch as Bill


Director: Kelly Reichardt

Writers: Kelly ReichardtJonathan Raymond

Cinematography: Christopher Blauvelt

Editor: Kelly Reichardt

Composer: Ethan Rose

Showing Up on Letterboxd

Showing Up on IMDb