music friday: 1988
african-american directors series: is that black enough for you ?!? (elvis mitchell, 2022)

film fatales #206: showing up (kelly reichardt, 2022)

Back in 2008, I saw my first Kelly Reichardt film, Old Joy. I hated it (I should revisit it ... I find that when I have such a big negative response to a movie, there's something going on besides the movie).

It is a sign of the high regard for Reichardt among critics that I have come back for more. Showing Up is the fifth of her films I have seen, and I've liked all of the subsequent movies more than I did Old Joy. But I haven't loved any of them (Wendy and Lucy and First Cow are my favorites). And Showing Up is more of the same, as good as my favorites, but nothing that knocks me out. I appreciate that "knocking me out" isn't necessarily what Reichardt is up to in her films, but there's a connection I seem to be missing.

Some themes emerge. About Wendy and Lucy, I wrote that film had "a good feel for nature (and the beautiful cinematography to go with it), a lack of a narrative thrust, and the willingness to take the time to let the film develop (if “develop” is the right word)." On First Cow: "Kelly Reichardt has a very specific, personal style of film making, and more power to her. It really helps, though, if you know going in that she will force you to slow down to her pace." And about another film: "Meek's Cutoff is the kind of film that does such a good job of presenting the crushing boredom of the situation that the movie itself becomes boring."

I don't think there is an easy solution to this problem, nor do I think a solution is necessary. Reichardt seems to make the films she wants to make, with little interference, and that is a good thing, even if I feel distanced from the results.

This note from the IMDB hit home for me. "According to writer-director Kelly Reichardt, [Showing Up] deconstructs the idea of a genius. For her, it's a pure construct: the movie (and its title) refers to the idea of showing up to work every day, and taking time to hone a skill, until it becomes automatic, like eating." This willful rejection of genius in the mame of showing up is interesting on paper, but perhaps for a movie to grab me, there needs to be a little genius as well. Showing Up is about artists, and only one of them is ever referred to as a genius. He is a delusional conspiracy-minded soul who, when he finally begins work on a piece, begins digging up enormous holes in his backyard.

The acting is strong. Michelle Williams and Kelly Reichardt have worked together in the past, and it's a powerful relationship. The supporting cast includes Hong Chau (good as always, but I disliked her character), André 3000, Amanda Plummer, and Judd Hirsch (less hammy than usual). Kelly Reichardt is a consistent filmmaker, a winner of many awards, with films that are regulars at festivals. I only wish I cared more about her movies. #313 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century.


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