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Movie Review: Beeswax
On his third album Graduation, Kanye West opines "everything I'm not may be everything I am". While the glitzy, slick musician couldn't be more different than understated, "mumblecore" filmmaker Andrew Bujalski, West's sentiment is most appropriate for Bujalski's third film Beeswax. It's Bujalski's own graduation of sorts; his no-fi camerawork has expanded to colorful scope, and his awkward 20-somethings have grown into even more awkward 30-somethings. Maintaining a fiercely independent lifestyle has real stakes for the first time, and yet Bujalski's characters remain so far removed that the only way to look at Beeswax is to look at what it isn't.
Like Bujalski's earlier productions, Beeswax isn't "about anything" in the traditional sense; there's no three-act plot summary wherein characters encounter a problem, almost succumb to it, battle back and grow from the experience. There are major life events in play - unemployed Lauren awaits a teaching position overseas, her twin sister Jeannie awaits a lawsuit from flaky business partner Amanda, and Merrill puts his bar exam on hold to keep both women with him in Austin - but this largely occurs off-screen. Instead, Bujalski highlights the moments in-between, after the drama has subsided and all that's left is to pick up the pieces. Rather than strive and triumph, the Beeswax trio seem only to sprint towards failure: the ghosts of boyfriends & "good but not great" friends lurk around every corner, holding every key, and the only thing more present than emotional ambivalence is passive aggression.
So what is it that makes this depressing affair so alluring? In a movement built almost entirely around dialogue, Bujalski proves himself a master of mumble with how he sneaks in aesthetic. The vintage store Jeannie co-manages is a character unto itself, its knick-knacks opening the film into color and ensnaring the characters into clutter. These sequences benefit the most from Bujalski's upgrade to Super 16mm, but even over-the-shoulder talking shots pop when bright flannels & vibrant sun dresses cloak the speakers.
Beeswax is a difficult film to appreciate; it's really brooding off in its own world. But it has a hidden richness, if you can mind the rest of it.
Review by Edward Yerke-Robins
Beeswax opens Friday, August 21st at the Nuart. Andrew Bujalski will appear at the 7:30 & 10:30 shows Friday & Saturday. Also, Bujalski and executive producer Houston King invite fans to join them Friday at midnight and Saturday at 9:30 at Karoke Bleu at 2064 Sawtelle Blvd. Bujalski is apparently quite the warbler.