"Beeswax," the third feature from American indie auteur Andrew Bujalski ("Funny Ha Ha," "Mutual Appreciation"), offers yet another low-key take on twentysomethings finding their way.
“Beeswax,” the third feature from American indie auteur Andrew Bujalski (“Funny Ha Ha,” “Mutual Appreciation”), offers yet another low-key take on twentysomethings finding their way. Character-driven slice-of-life thesped mostly by nonpros resolutely avoids the dramatic — dwelling instead on the moments in between. Unlikely to reach much beyond the helmer’s fan base (some of whom will think he’s treading water), this modest but fest-friendly item could slip into niche arthouse slots, drawing the same Gen-Y demographic as his earlier pics.
Texas-set tale centers on charismatic twin sisters who share an Austin home. Athletic free-spirit Lauren (Maggie Hatcher, a college friend of Bujalski) is between jobs and boyfriends and considering going abroad to teach English.
More tightly wound Jeannie (Tilly Hatcher, a teacher and artist who created the colorful opening and closing title card collages) is a paraplegic who co-owns a local vintage store where she has ongoing problems with business partner Amanda (Anne Dodge). Matter-of-fact depiction of her disability reps a marketing plus that could be used to target new audiences.
Fearing Amanda might sue her, Jeannie solicits the advice of former boyfriend Merrill (indie filmmaker Alex Karpovsky), a law student studying for the bar exam. As the pair rekindle their relationship, loquacious Merrill takes an overactive interest in Jeannie’s problem.
While the Jeannie-Amanda conflict motors the loose plot, its exact nature remains irritatingly vague. Equally annoying, an offer from the twins’ mother’s lover Sally (Janet Pierson) to invest in the shop never seems to get conveyed to Jeannie.
Although Bujalski’s spin on the legal thriller lacks narrative tension, it ambles on pleasantly enough, buoyed by the twins’ refreshingly forthright screen presence. Abrupt ending feels like a cop-out.
Essentially, the slight story could take place anywhere; the anonymous-looking exteriors don’t exploit locations in any way. However, the Austin setting permitted the helmer to recruit a supporting cast of local filmmakers (including the producer-director Zellner brothers, animator Katy O’Connor and editor Kyle Henry) as well as South by Southwest Film Fest honcho Pierson, all of whom supply credible perfs.
On his third outing with Bujalski, d.p. Matthias Grunsky’s intimate, unshowy lensing keeps the focus on the characters, with Jeannie’s wheelchair taking on a presence of its own. Uncredited production design has a homemovie feel.