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Beeswax is the latest, and third, film from one of the top Mumblecore* directors Andrew Bujalski.
Bujalski, born in 1977, previously released Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation (currently (Feb 2010) free to view on the excellent site indiemoviesonline.com) and Beeswax continues on in his very own unique, Mumblecore style.
Beeswax is the tale of two sisters, twins, who live together in Austin Texas (now also the home of Boston born Bujalski)
Jeannie (Tilly Hatcher) is wheelchair bound and runs a second hand/retro clothing store. She is worried that her partner in the business is going to sue her. For what I am not exactly sure, I don't think it is ever clearly explained.
Laura (Maggie Hatcher, yes they are real twins) has just lost her job and broken up with her boyfriend.
The third main character in the film is Merrill (Alex Karpovsky), an ex-boyfriend of Jeannie and a man about to pass the bar and become a lawyer. He helps Jeannie out with legal advice but wants to become a lot more involved in her life again.
The rest of the characters are more peripheral to the story being told, if story is the correct word for what we see. Beeswax is less of a precise story orientated movie and more like dropping in on someone real life for a short time. We get to see a short period in the life of Jeannie and Laura, joining it at one period and then leaving at another. Like life itself the story begins before the camera joins them and will continue on after we have 'left' them.
This isn't to say that there is no story here at all because there is, but it is almost in the background. We know that there is a story going on but it doesn't really matter, it is the characters that drive the movie and the characterisation that makes you watch and enjoy.
This way of making the film, combined with the use of non-professional actors and a realism to the dialogue almost makes you feel like you are watching a documentary or a reality show.
Beeswax is an incredible film, you feel a real warmth towards these characters and even though nothing really happens you cant help but not only enjoy the movie but come out with a smile on your face, for no real reason other than you have been expertly entertained.
There is something about the film that so goes against everything you are used to seeing in a movie that it gives you the realisation that movies ARE so much more than the big Hollywood over produced, cliché ridden, formulaic crap. I enjoy that kind of movie as much as anyone but it is movies like this that give me that kind of buzz I got when I first started going to the cinema of my own accord. It also makes you realise that anyone can make a movie these days if you really do have the desire and a little bit of talent. Bujalski has a lot of talent and this film must have been low, low budget but it doesn't really show that much. The acting isn't brilliant but it is more than capable, the film looks very unglossy and it isn't edited to an inch of its life just to make everything move fast and furious and try and make people keep up with it. Creating false impressions of speed just by angle changes and the like.
Bujalski has a natural flair for simplicity, great camera angles and for getting the best out of his actors. Would he ever make a good Hollywood director I don't know but he doesn't need to be, while he can make excellent films like this then who cares.
This isn't to say that Beeswax is perfect, the popping in and out of the twins life means that we do miss stuff, and when it is something we want to know about it verges on frustrating, but it never actually reaches that (unlike most Hollywood films would do if they tried this technique).
We never really know why Jeannie thinks that she is going to be sued, or what the reason for the possible suit could be.
At the start of the film Corinne starts work at the shop, a line of dialogue tells us that she replaces someone who left under unusual circumstances, but we never hear any more than that.
There is also an unexplained scene with Corinne crying in the back room of the shop. Why we have no idea at all and never find out.
At first this is distracting and bothers you a bit but after a while you realise that all the minute details are not important to the story. All that really matters is the characters and the characterisation, their lives and how these things intersect and affect them. In that sense Beeswax is head and shoulders above most films.
Beeswax is a real gem of an indie movie and the viewing of Bujalski's other two films (which I have to admit were already on my list and his name was what attracted me to this at the London Film Festival 2009) have just leapfrogged up my list of movies to watch!
Seen at the London Film Festival 2009 with Bujalski in attendance. Still seems to have no release date in the UK.
*Mumblecore is a term derived to categorise very low budget films that concentrate on people in their twenties and their relationships.
The scripts are often improvised from a basic plot structure and the actors are non-professional ones.
The films are built around how the twenty somethings fit into the world and how they are going to cope with everything now that they are out of college.
Bujalski's Funny Ha Ha is acknowledged as the first Mumblecore movie though he is not the only proponent of it.