By Don Simpson | October 10, 2009
Director: Andrew Bujalski
Writer(s): Andrew Bujalskiv
Starring: Tilly Hatcher, Anne Dodge, Maggie Hatcher, Alex Karpovsky
Writer-director Andrew Bujalski (Funny Ha Ha, Mutual Appreciation) has a tendency to plunge at once in medias res; such is the case with Beeswax – Bujalski hints that a larger narrative exists as the audience stumbles into the midst of the drama…
Jeannie (Tilly Hatcher) co-owns a vintage boutique in Austin, TX with an estranged friend, Amanda (Anne Dodge). Jeannie (from whose perspective the story is told) is apparently the more dedicated of the two owners. She spends a majority of her time managing the day-to-day operations of the boutique, while Amanda is essentially an absentee partner. Despite their ownership contract (which was written by Amanda’s father – and Jeannie has become suspicious that it strongly favors Amanda), the two partners have a bitter and jaded history of making business decisions without consulting each other.
A recent email from Amanda to Jeannie alludes that Amanda might possibly be preparing to take legal action against her – this seems unreasonable to Jeannie since she is the owner that puts the most blood, sweat and tears into the business. Since we are not privy to Amanda’s side of the story, we can only make the assumption that Amanda’s absence from the business is probably out of necessity to avoid her highly irritable and overbearing partner.
Lauren (Maggie Hatcher) – the quintessentially free-spirited Austin slacker – is Jeannie’s twin sister (and roommate). She somehow seems to make ends meet financially, by taking odd jobs here and there, but Lauren is altogether lost in terms of a career path. The post-collegiate twins may look alike (other than Jeannie being a wheelchair-bound paraplegic), but Lauren’s chaotic and carefree lifestyle plays in stark contrast to Jeannie’s intense desire for a more controlled existence and security.
Then, there is Merrill (Alex Karpovsky) – Jeannie’s ex-boyfriend who recently graduated from law school and is immersed in his studies for his bar exams. However, once he learns of Jeannie’s encroaching legal situation with Amanda, he opts to blow off his exams to offer his (not quite) legal advice to Jeannie. Merrill has a possible ulterior motive – he seems quite interested in rekindling his romance with Jeannie.
That is the slice of life that Bujalski entitles the audience to experiencing – everything else is none of our beeswax.
Bujalski plays heavy on naturalism and realism, as he once again utilizes a non-professional cast teamed with a guerilla production crew armed with a grainy 16mm camera. The characters’ dialogue purposely rambles and stammers and falters and mumbles – as their lives follow suit.
I cannot imagine Hollywood cinema ever placing a paraplegic in a leading role without endlessly harping on the character’s medical condition; yet, even though Jeannie is wheelchair-bound, her medical condition is never discussed nor does the subject ever even approach the narrative. Jeannie has obviously overcome her obstacle of paraplegia well before Beeswax begins, and Bujalski chooses to not focus on the past. Tilly Hatcher is wheelchair-bound in reality (due to a spinal cord tumor), which altogether aids in the nonchalance. She is not an actor playing a wheelchair-bound character; she is a wheelchair-bound actor playing a character. What a concept.