Kelly Reichardt’s minimalistic style shines through Showing Up. Since the film is not plot-driven, the camera focuses on the significant and the insignificant, giving us a complete sense of the world Reinchardt wants her audience to immerse themselves in. At the center of the film is Lizzy, a sculptor living in a small town who is overwhelmed by the feeling of being inadequate. For over three minutes, the audience is introduced to Lizzy’s art. Her artwork focuses mostly on female figures, and movement is an essential element in it. There is a sense of fluidity and independence in the movement, a motion that seems lacking in the artist’s life.
‘Showing Up’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Lizzy is eager and anxious about her upcoming show. She invites the people important in her life to take a closer look at the sculptures she has been working on. While there is some joy in showcasing her art, it is often overshadowed by constant self-criticism. Lizzy was aware that, in the grand scheme of things, her achievement was trivial. In reality, she is an artist working in an administrative position for her mother at her alma mater. She is yet to “make it,” and the lack of hot water access constantly reminds her of it. Lizzy is envious of her landlord and fellow local artist, Jo. Jo’s ease, confidence, and overall aura make Lizzy think less about herself.
Even after repeatedly requesting that Jo get back the hot water access, she seemed unbothered about it. Jo never felt the compulsion to do things that required her attention; she rather chose her chores. And at times, the chore could be fixing a tire swing. I think Jo is the idea of an artist in popular culture. An artist so consumed by her process that she often abandons things that tie her to her reality. Her lack of sense of responsibility is interpreted as a sign of being a promising artist. Lizzy wants to be unbothered, she wants to go with the flow, but she is unlike those around her. She hopes to focus on her project but is often distracted by the ones she loves. When her cat, Ricky, purrs and protests about not being fed at the right time, Lizzy cannot ignore it. She wants to immerse herself in the process of creation, but she cannot distance herself from the world. “Showing Up” follows Lizzy and her journey as an artist preparing for a local show. Throughout the duration of the film, we try to figure out who Lizzy is as a person and make sense of her complex emotions as she tries to navigate the local art scene.
‘Showing Up’ Ending Explained: What Happened At Lizzy’s Show?
Reichardt takes us around the art school campus, and after taking a close look at the various art forms, we find Lizzy struggling to ask her mother for a day off. During lunch hours, she is joined by a visiting artist who is impressed by the flyer Lizzy designed for her classes. She does not take Lizzy for an artist; her appearance and introverted nature make it almost impossible for anyone to predict. I think it is a funny take on how we have come to think that it is essential to channel our inner chaos into our appearance. It’s almost like wearing a costume according to one’s trade, and when it comes to an artist, the dungaree, the messy hair, the forgetfulness, a little bit of madness, the vibrance of the outfits, and the extroverted nature are given. The representation of an artist in popular culture has established that an artist is only an artist when they look like one. Mostly in her beige clothes, Lizzy does not appear to be an artist. There is a distance between her and the world she lives in. She often looks around with envy and amusement.
The fact that her parents are artists does not make it any better. She grew up in a dysfunctional family, and the visible bitterness that she could see in her father’s eyes with regard to his craft made her question her journey all the more. Her parents had separated, and her father was a lonely man living alone in a room packed with his artwork. When Lizzy learned about the two strangers who often visited her father and lived off his amenities, she felt furious. Her father did not mind having the two around; deep down, he knew he had been taken advantage of, but maybe it was better than the loneliness he experienced otherwise. Lizzy was affected by her father’s situation, but her inability to take any concrete steps made her all the more irritable. Lizzy longed for her mother’s affection and appreciation, and it was visible when her mother praised Jo for her achievement.
As Lizzy prepared for the show, Ricky brought a pigeon home one night. Without giving it much thought, Lizzy dropped the bird out of her window. She was aware that it was the worst thing to do, but she did not have the time to think it through. The next morning, she came across Jo nursing the pigeon. Lizzy felt all the more guilty, and maybe the thought that Jo was better not only as an artist but even as a person crossed Lizzy’s mind. But then again, Jo was sympathetic but not responsible. Soon after adopting the pigeon, she left it with Lizzy. Lizzy wanted to focus on her sculptures, but upon noticing that the pigeon was distressed, she rushed to the vet. When she narrated the incident to her colleague, he could not hold back his laughter. The length that Lizzy went to make sure that the pigeon survived was extraordinary. It was Lizzy’s nature to see things through, and gradually she developed a fond relationship with the rescued pigeon. She initially considered it nothing more than a hassle, especially at a time when she needed to concentrate, but there was a sense of comfort that she shared with the pigeon. The pigeon did not belong in the box, and maybe their shared lack of belonging is what brought Lizzy close to it. Lizzy’s brother, Sean, used to be an artist, but his mental condition made it impossible for him to think coherently. Lizzy was worried about her brother’s condition and was quite surprised by how unaffected her mother was. This is perhaps another instance that shows how Lizzy struggled to put up with those around her. Her sense of responsibility made it impossible for her to neglect her brother, and she was frustrated by the aloofness of her mother.
Lizzy chose not to attend Jo’s exhibition. Jealousy and resentment got the best of her. Not showing up at a fellow artist’s show can never be a good decision, but maybe for Lizzy, it was her way of protesting against Jo’s irresponsible nature. “Showing Up” ends with Lizzy’s show. Her father is the first one to show up, and even though he manages to entertain the crowd, his stories are later discredited by Lizzy’s mother. Accompanying his father was the wandering couple, who were there only for the wine and cheese. Gradually, all the local artists showed up, and the room was filled with familiar faces busy discussing their individual progress and achievements. Lizzy did not expect Jo to turn up, but she did, keeping aside the pettiness and honoring Lizzy, the artist. Even though her brother went missing from his house right before the show, he eventually came to visit Lizzy. While everyone she cared for was in attendance, we do not know if Lizzy felt accomplished at all. It was a local show attended by the same bunch of people she met every day, but there was some hope considering the show was attended by a New York art gallery owner. Lizzy’s constant self-inflicted conflict took a pause when two little girls untied the bandage wrapped around the pigeons’ wings. The pigeon flew across the room, making the audience shudder, thinking it might collapse into one of Lizzy’s sculptures, but instead, it rested on the floor, and Shaun got hold of it. He released the pigeon outside the gallery, and the once-captured bird was finally free.
Even though Lizzy and Jo were completely different, it was their combined effort that helped the pigeon recover. Showing Up ends with Lizzy and Jo walking the street together. From a distance, they were two individuals with different senses of being trying to find their way in life. In the strangest of ways, it was the pigeon that, in a way, brought them together. We can also compare the pigeon with Lizzy; they both were broken and needed that extra push and love to finally fly. The ending can be interpreted as two individuals coming to an agreement and acknowledging their differences in choice and approach. Showing up, as the title suggests, is about being there to celebrate others, but at the same time, it also means discrediting someone by magnifying their faults. While it is a daunting feeling to be judged by peers, it also gives the people around us an opportunity to show up and make a difference one way or another.