Tag Archives: Judd Hirsch

Art & Craft

Showing Up

by Hope Madden

Visual poet of the day-to-day Kelly Reichardt returns to screens this weekend with a look at art as well as craft in her dramedy, Showing Up.

Michelle Williams is Lizzy, a sculptor who’s not getting enough done for her upcoming show. It’s a small show in a small gallery not exactly downtown, but it’s a show and she’s got a lot of work left to do.

So does Jo (Hong Chau, one of three 2023 Oscar nominees in the cast!), Lizzy’s neighbor and landlord. In fact, Jo has two shows coming up, so who knows when she’ll be able to fix Lizzy’s water heater?

And just like that, Reichardt leaches the glamour from the art world, dropping us instead into a place far from glitzy but bewilderingly human.

Williams is characteristically amazing, her performance as much a piece of physical acting as verbal. You know Lizzy by looking at her, at the way she stands, the way she responds to requests for coffee or work, the way she reacts to compliments about her work, the way she sighs. Williams’s performance is as much in what she does not say as what she does, and the honesty in that performance generates most of the film’s comic moments.

Chau knocks it out of the park yet again, and like Williams, she presents the character of Jo as much in her physical action as in her dialog. The chemistry between the two is truly amazing, simultaneously combative and accepting, or maybe just resigned to each other.

Reichardt’s phenomenal cast does not stop there: Judd Hirsch (irascible and hilarious), John Magaro (sad with an undercurrent of potential danger), Andre Benjamin (chilling), Maryann Plunkett (frustrated) and Amanda Plummer (weird, naturally).

As is so often the case, the environment itself is its own character, every gorgeously mundane detail filmed in Reichardt’s go-to 16mm film. She and cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt once again find the grace and beauty in the spots everyone else ignores.

Like Nicole Holofcener and Claire Denis, Reichardt invests her attention in the small moments rather than delivering a tidy, obvious structure. The result feels messy, like life, with lengths of anxiety and unease punctuated by small triumphs.



by Tori Hanes

Ah, the great dismay of reviewers everywhere: putting to word the film that is, in all respects, just fine. 

Good intention, beating heart, a splattering of fine performances… a contrived story, weird relationships, and dramatically confusing decisions. Comme ci, comme ça. 

Holocaust survivor turned Miami Beach grandfather Mordecai Samel is played by Judd Hirsch – and let’s be honest here. The man’s 88 years old. This in and of itself is worthy of praise.

Mordecai is forever changed by the purchase of an iPhone. This singular point sprouts approximately 12 plots that messily attempt a parallel run, including: 

  • A flailing cigar business run by Mordecai’s perpetually disgruntled son, Marvin (Sean Astin)
  • A wholeheartedly strange relationship with a member of a Nazi bloodline
  • A bizarrely convenient dementia diagnosis 
  • A budding, introduced-and-forgotten art career

Any of these could’ve, and probably should’ve, been the primary plot. Instead, they bob and weave to and fro, knocking each other off course for the chance at a fleeting moment in the sun. 

The contexts surrounding this film are, unfortunately, more interesting than the movie itself. Filmmaker Marvin Samel created iMordecai as a joyous tribute to his father, and that palpable love is present throughout the 102 minute run time. Mordecai Samel did survive the Holocaust in a Siberian orphanage, and he did create a happy life in sunny Miami. His son claims to have learned the craft of filmmaking through online classes, accumulating his knowledge to create the cinematic experience of his father’s golden years.

Hilariously, iMordecai is touted as a “true story – the bold, true story of an older man learning how to use an iPhone.” Of course this is a hyperbolic simplification, but the nature of the claim feels about as asinine as that. It’s a glaring example of the lack of perception toward what makes this movie interesting. Mordecai Samel, the man at the center, is the heart, pumping blood to every far reaching vein. When the film turns a tourniquet on itself, it loses.

Overall, the plot’s messy but comprehensible. The direction is jarring but understandable. The cast is stacked, the performances are solid, but the characters are left-footed. iMordecai is digestible in every way but forgettable just the same.