Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Tilly Hatcher, Maggie Hatcher, Alex Karpovsky, Katy O'Connor, David Zellner, Kyle Henry, S.J. Anderson, Anne Dodge, Betty Blackwell, Bryan Poyser, Rebecca McInroy, Nathan Zellner, Atietie Tonwe, Nina Sokol, Jillian Glantz
Written by: Andrew Bujalski
Directed by: Andrew Bujalski
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 100
Date: 02/09/2009
IMDB

Beeswax (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Funky Business

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I've seen all three of Andrew Bujalski's feature films, including Funny Ha Ha, Mutual Appreciation and the new Beeswax, and I think they just keep getting better and better (they have grown warmer). But their technique still mystifies me. I have no idea how to describe them. Bujalski tends to focus on young people in their twenties and thirties. They're educated and middle-class, but not exactly driven go-getters. When characters talk, they mumble and pause and stop to make jokes. They're self-deprecating and they often speak without knowing exactly what they want to say. They fumble for words. The exchanges feel uncannily real, but Bujalski actually writes his scripts, casts actors and directs these scenes. How he gets performances so comfortable, yet uncomfortable, and at the same time vivid, is something miraculous.

In Beeswax, real-life identical twins Tilly Hatcher and Maggie Hatcher star. Jeanne (Tilly) needs a wheelchair to get around (the movie doesn't make a big deal out of this; it's just there). She manages a vintage clothing shop in Austin, Texas, whipping her chair easily in and around the clothing racks and counters. She has been at odds with her business partner Amanda (Anne Dodge) for some time, and now there's a looming threat of a lawsuit. Her sister Lauren (Maggie) is currently unemployed; she talks about helping their mother, and eventually considers an offer for a job in Nairobi. They have a close friend, Merrill (Alex Karpovsky), who is studying to be a lawyer, and he and Jeanne begin a tender, tentative romantic relationship. The title (I'm assuming) is a delightful play on that old, childish phrase "Mind your own beeswax," which roughly translates into "business." Business is something that all the characters are dealing with, in some form or another.

Bujalski's dialogue can sometimes feel uncomfortable and distancing, since it sometimes reveals nothing about the person who is speaking. Though very often it can reveal everything, and after just a few minutes of Beeswax, that very thing starts happening. I started enjoying the company of these characters, and I wanted to keep getting to know them. The film ends just as suddenly as it begins, and nothing is concluded, but it's also the perfect time for us to leave. I think this last scene is also the first time the characters begin to talk directly to one another, no more hesitating or beating around the bush or joking. They've become comfortable in their own skins, and our adoration for them has reached a peak. The effect of leaving just then is oddly euphoric. I liked this film very much, and I hope it's not so small and off-the-radar that people won't check it out.

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