Showing Up follows Lizzy, her frustrations and hyper-fixations, and the complex way she loves. Rough-around-the-edges just like her sculptures Lizzy never smiles or expresses enthusiasm and her favourite place to be is alone working in her garage. Initially, it may appear Lizzy is self-centred and unhappy, but as the film progresses we begin to understand why she keeps herself at a distance from her colleagues and from people in general.
Lizzy’s show is coming up and she hasn’t finished her sculptures yet—but Ricky the cat is hungry!—so she goes to the store to get food, sacrificing her most productive hours. Lizzy’s brother Sean is a mentally unwell “genius” the rest of her family avoids, and instead of working on her art Lizzy goes to his house to check he is okay. When her cat Ricky attacks a pigeon Lizzy does throw it out the window, but Karma hands the bird back to her; she nurses the pigeon back to health and worries about it incessantly.
Lizzy is a pretty regular person—she frets about those she is attached to, tries to control her anger when her landlord/artist-friend/neighbour takes weeks to get her hot water back on, and with whatever time she has left gets back to work. This is the crux of the film: the days of artists are soaking wet with the same mundane activities and disappointments everyone else’s are.
A large portion of Showing Up is taken up with shots of Lizzy’s sculptures. We live the life of an artist with her, watching the materials change. She works with her hands, moulding the flexible grey clay into distinct figures. Then paints them, dries them, and takes them to the kiln. This is the only phase of the process outside Lizzy’s control, the sculptures emerge as colourful glazed women with pinched faces.
By this stage, the clay women are as real to the audience as the other characters in the film. We spend an extended amount of time with the sculptures and have different associations with each of them. They also help us make sense of Lizzy’s character, the loudness of these women being one possible explanation for the artist’s dizzying calmness.
All in all, Showing Up is a film for a majority of audiences, if you look you will find something meaningful, though the meaning garnered might be something quite different between viewers. Personally, I think Showing Up is a great film to watch with friends—especially swanky arts folk who want to re-examine themselves as closely as a piece of art.