You could dismiss Beeswax as just another quasi-coherent mess. But actually, Bujalski's getting better at this.
So there's, like, Jeannie (Tilly Hatcher)? And she's in a wheelchair and she runs a thrift store with a friend. This friend is being totally unsupportive and threatening to leave the business and sue her? Her twin sister is Lauren (Maggie Hatcher).
She's sorta directionless – laid back – really just not sure what she wants from umm anything? And this guy Merrill (Alex Karpovsky) is around too. He's nice. Studying super hard for a post-grad and hoping to hook up with Jeannie... it's just she's running the store and working so hard and just really doesn't appreciate any distractions right now?
So, this is Andrew Bujalski's third feature. He made Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation. And there was talk about him being the 'Godfather of Mumblecore', or whatever. You know? It's like a school of film where directors like Bujalski, errr... Aaron Katz (Quiet City) and this guy Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes The Stairs) write and direct films that are sort of autobiographical, but not?
Like, totally focused on groups of white, middle class, urban twentysomethings and their existential angst, but at the same time sort of attempting, errr... pretending to maybe say something about how young, white, middle class people are dislocated from modern society? And from each other? Or something.
You could dismiss Beeswax as just another, umm... quasi-coherent mess? But actually, Bujalski's getting better at this. His shots are framed when they used to feel stumbled upon. His script – loose and lazy in the meandering first half – tightens up with the introduction of the character of Merrill, with actor Alex Karpovsky's sharp, snappy performance in the role cutting at the conversational offal.
Bujalski films are normally Woody Allen comedies with Woody – the worrisome, hilariously obnoxious antagonist raging against a supporting cast of straight men – pulled out. Here Merrill fills the hole – a bright, clear note amongst a chorus of meh.
But if Beeswaxmarks a slouching step forward for this nascent genre, it does so by edging away from the characteristics that have made Mumblecore infamous. Bujalski gives this film a sense of purpose, a (loose, ponderous) plot and a character you can feel sympathy for. These are major concessions to mainstream sensibility, at least in the context of some recent Mumblecore movies (such as Joe Swanberg's irritatingly aimless Alexander The Last).
Yet (past Karpovsky's Merrill) there's still a dearth of anything interesting or entertaining here. Bujalski still either refuses or struggles to see past the boundaries of his own socio-economic sect. As such Beeswax often feels sort of flat? And drawn-out? Just a like, totally dull watch?
Errrrr totally, like, whatever.
A step forward, but a sluggish one.